By Ronni Sandroff | Dec. 2015 | Letagemagazine.com
One of the more encouraging things about the rotating exhibit of over 100 contemporary female artists from 28 countries at the Rubell Family Collection is that today’s female artists don’t have to wait as long as, say, Rosalyn Drexler, to get some recognition. A Jennifer Rubell performance piece called “Devotion” opened the NO MAN’S LAND, involving an engaged couple handing out hunks of bread and butter to a crushing crowd. The piece, which explores repetition as devotion, seemed more heart-felt than Rubell’s “Lysa III, 2014,” a life-size female mannequin engineered to crack walnuts in her crotch (yes, you could participate). Although funny, that piece seems not only to comment on — but also to indulge in — female body exploitation and disrespect.
The extensive exhibit at the Rubell will reward quiet contemplation once the crowds have diminished. Among my favorites were Sonia Gomes’ remarkably alive and sinuous rope sculptures. She is known to work with textiles she finds or receives as gifts, according to her gallery, Brazil’s Mendes Wood DM. The memory of the material itself is synthesized with the racial and emotional issues encrusted in the identity of the Brazilian with indigenous and African cultural influences.
I was enchanted by the life-size sculptures of girls with neon rings, such as Apocalypse Ballet (Pink Ring), 2006 by Mai-Thu Perret from Geneva, Switzerland. Perret’s sculptures emerge out of her written fictional work in progress that describes the lives of a group of women who form a commune called New Ponderosa Yar Zero in the New Mexican desert, according to artspace.com.
More conceptional and little harder to get is “Eureka, 1993” a footed bathtub full of lard indented with a body-cast of the artist, Janine Antoni, who was born in Freeport, Bahamas, lives in New York. It helps to know that Antoni often uses her body as an entity in her performance art, sculpture, and photography and considers lard a stand-in for the female body.
Although the mother-and-child theme was surprisingly scarce among the female artists exhibited in NO MAN’S LAND, German artist Paloma Varga Weisz “Waldfrau, getarnt, 2002” has a startling, engrossing version in limewood, larch tree, and camouflage fabric.
Two richly-beautiful stylized works by Hayv Kahraman, born in Baghdad, Iraq, and living in California have disturbing subject matter. “Migrant 1. 2009” shows two women, each in a noose. Another, “Persian Couple I, 2009” shows a woman exposing herself to a lover with a distant and pained expression on her averted face. Kahraman had a show at Jack Shianman, New York, in 2015 called “How Iraqi are you?”
A painting with delicate realism that that seems to capture the essence of young love at a house party with the right music on is “Efulefu: The Lost One, 2011,” By Njideka Akunyili Crosby, born in Nigeria, living in Los Angeles.
And for a different take, consider the exuberant embrace of lovers (if you can spot them) in “Young Love” by Dana Schutz, born in Michigan, lives in Brooklyn. Bold swipes of the paintbrush creating a riotously colored world in motion.
If you can find any womanly commonality among these artists, do let me know. I’ve only found that each work beckons and reveals itself in very different ways.