Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Bad Girls West

.....the exhibitions grew out of initial conversations we had when I was staying with Marcia, Dean and Ruby on one of my frequent visits to NY. We had both noticed that a second wave of women artists was making feminist art in a way that was a departure from those in the first wave. It was FUNNY, often bawdy, sexual, and outrageously over-the-top. It made its points through humor and sensual seduction rather than didactically yet still employed some of the unorthodox materials, techniques and forms that earlier feminists had liberated. Marcia Tucker mentioned that she'd been thinking of organizing a "small show" about this phenomenon, then suggested that we organize sister shows that could open simultaneously. As I was not a curator but rather a writer and art critic then, with NO curatorial training, experience or aspirations, I gulped, but then thought Why not? So she gets credit for that initial impetus.

We certainly collaborated with each other on formulating and framing the exhibition's theme[s], and referred each other to artists. Marcia helped me with introductions to East Coast artists and New York studio visits; I did the same for her with artists in LA and the SF Bay Area. She opened doors and gave me guidance and support. There was some overlap between the exhibitions in that we both showed some of the same artists, and both included the video program curated by Cheryl Dunye, but our exhibitions were quite different in many respects. The New Museum show was in two successive parts; mine was a single show (with forty-one artists, not including the video artists). Hers incorporated a lot of pop culture material: comics, 'zines, pop song compilations on tape, etc.; mine didn't, but it did include some outdoor pieces and would have had more (a great Sylvie Fleury piece I wanted, for instance) if the UCLA Art Dept. had acquired the Hammer Museum in time (initially, BGW was supposed to be the inaugural show at the Hammer and I had big plans for that space!).

Also, I believe my show embraced a larger definition of "bad girl" humor than hers, in that not all the work was bawdy or sexual. Some of it, like Jean Lowe's work for instance, was definitely funny but subtler in its critique of patriarchal attitudes toward man's dominion over nature. Still, Marcia was impressed by some of the tough work I did include, like Lutz Bacher's mirror installation.

It was Marcia Tucker who got funding for the joint catalogue, very late in the game, and invited me to contribute an essay, which I did in record time. So that wouldn't have happened without her, and I was thrilled to have such a beautiful publication documenting our hard work. However the catalogue design makes it look like a single exhibition and it definitely was not. The captions on the image reproductions don't indicate in whose exhibition they appeared, for instance. You have to look at the individual exhibition checklists at the end to determine which works were in which show. I doubt that many people do.

Once Marcia read my essay she decided I should concentrate on writing, not curating, and continued to insist on that every time we met or talked thereafter. I think she was being realistic about my chances of making a viable career out of curating at my age and with my lack of credentials, but I believe she also genuinely liked my writing. Unfortunately, it's all her fault that after that first curatorial experience (and I've NEVER worked so hard in my life, or received so much critical flack from feminist academics, etc.) I became addicted to the process. I don't know that I'll ever kick the habit completely. Writing, though, is feeling more and more alluring these days. We'll see.

Anne, this wasn't intended as a blog post but maybe it is? You decide . . .


Jane said...

Marcia -- What a lovely tribute to Marcia. I am interested in your comment about the second round of women artists being interested in sexuality, etc. as if in reaction to the 70s feminists (who, of course, had good reason to behave as they did and to whom we are all grateful). But it appears as if artists who are coming into bloom now (whether they are young just starting or older just being recognized).... these artists strike a balance between the female repression of the 50s and the feminist reaction of the 70s. Perhaps if this trend continues we can all recognize sexuality for what it is -- an expression of the divine creator.

mullaneyandackerman said...

yes what a lovely tribute to marcia whom i did not know but admire...i do appreciate though that it is an oppportunity to learn more about your history, how you came to be a curator and writer which is fascinating...so i hope you will go on with the story a demain.