In a field historically with male preponderance, London is paying homage to many female artists, some raised from the past, others celebrated as the new frontier of art. This is an autumn of womanly exhibitions in the English capital, a further demonstration that the feminist struggle no longer has reason to exist, despite all the gender disparities still present. Women now have the right – not only the privilege – to have their art shown in strong and celebratory events.
The first exhibitions I could visit in London was Sarah Lucas’, at the Whitechapel Gallery until the 15th December, where the provocative artist’s works play with forms of masculinity and femininity ironically and sometimes aggressively, but also conceptually deeply. Sexuality and the human body are reinterpreted in a way that can appear visually abject and funny simultaneously.
On until the 15th, as well, is another artistic conception of the body, at the Southbank Centre. Ana Mendieta the Cuban American who died in 1985, created earth-body artworks focused on feminism, violence, and belonging – using natural elements together with her own body. This is her first UK retrospective, arranged with archive material, providing a unique incite into her life.
Two important historical figures have also been brought back to life, with the celebration that they deserved since the 70s. Marisa Merz, Italian exponent of the Arte Povera movement, now 87, wife of the most famous artist Mario Merz, but no less capable, was shown at the Serpentine Gallery. This past September to October the institution was filled by her famous aluminium sculptures, situated next to her copper, wood and paraffin artworks, created towards crafts and practices traditionally associated with women (knitting and weaving). This was the first time in history her less famous bright coloured paintings were given importance all around the walls of the church-like gallery. Femininity and motherhood (that can be earthy, in a pair of shoes knitted for her daughter, or sacred in her painting of the Virgin and the Child) were the protagonists of the exhibition.
The second female artist raised from the past is Birgit Jürgenssen, 1949 – 2003, whose exhibition has just finished at the Alison Jacques Gallery. Coming from the male-dominated Viennese Actionism movement of the 70s; similarly to Merz, she chose to interpret the female world by representing shoes in sculptures and drawing, with the peculiarity of a fashion designer. In this first UK solo show; the gallery showed some of her most influential drawings and photographs about the women roles given by the society, presented in an autobiographical and simultaneously universal way.
The Camden Art Center is showing until the 5th January the contemporary artist Kara Walker; in her first UK solo show. Walker provokes striking feelings, commenting upon the absurd themes of racism, sexual violence and children abuse, through the use of paper silhouettes and beautiful yet disturbing charcoal drawings, inducing people to reflect.
Another contemporary artist, Barbara Kasten, from Chicago, has been mixing media since the 70s. Represented by the Mary Mary gallery, Glasgow, is on display at 10 Northington Street in London, making it now possible to see some of her pictures and prints of geometric figures, and minimalist sculptures – made of mirrors and colorful surfaces, exploring the emotional effects of colour.
I am also looking forward to visiting two exhibitions that the Tate has just set up. The Tate Modern has dedicated a space to Mira Schendel, considered one of the most influential Brazilian artists of the 20th century, and the Tate Britain, in “Painting Now”; exhibiting a group of painters, among which four within five are surprisingly women.