I studied Art History at a small private school near the Neuberger Museum, an institution located inside SUNY Purchase in New York. I loved my college but I envied a school that housed a small yet impressive museum. I hold plenty of memories of visiting the museum, but also exploring the campus, from the lawn parties in the spring, meeting my first lesbian who I was infatuated with, and running around in the rain and losing a boot with one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. Needless to say, when I think of SUNY Purchase I think of girls and I find it fitting that they are exhibiting a groundbreaking show involving the impact of feminist artists with the deconstructivist movement.
The Deconstructive Impulse: Women Artists Reconfigure the Signs of Power, 1973 – 1992, examines the critical ways that feminist artists were able to relate to deconstructivism as a means of conveying their visual theories of media, femininity, gender, sex, race, and ethnic inequalities. The museum states: “deconstructivism involved taking apart and examining source material, generally borrowed from the mass media, to expose the ways commercial images reveal the mechanisms of power.” A perfect example of how women artists incorporated this aesthetic in their work is Lynn Hershman’s black and white photograph, Seduction, c.1988. Hershman captures a woman lounging on a bed in a short black dress and high heels, and placed a T.V. where her head would be, featuring enlarged closed eyes full of mascara.
The curator of the show explains this is the first show that highlights the women who were apart of this movement, which had been previously thought to be pioneered by men. Twenty-two American artists were chosen to display a total of 68 works. The show takes over three gallery spaces in the museum, categorized into the following sections: “Women’s Experience,” “Masquerade,” “Appropriation,” “Mass Media,” “Fashion” and “Critique of Cultural Institutions.” It was an ingenious selection of terms to label the different themes these women explored to illustrate the various approaches to the movement. To my contentment, the show featured several of our favorite artists, including, Deborah Kass, the Guerilla Girls, Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Hannah Wilke, and many more.
Besides viewing this exhibition in person the next best thing will be to purchase the book, available on amazon.com, which I plan to add to my growing library. The book and the show adequately demonstrate the power the feminist movement had on art and how it continues to affect the way women view themselves and are viewed by others.
The Deconstructive Impulse: Women Artists Reconfigure the Signs of Power, 1973-1991
Open until April 3, 2011
Neuberger Museum of Art
735 Anderson Hill Road