If I exhaled at Daughters of the Revolution, I was positively breathless at The Female Gaze, so welcome was it to see so much work by women in just two shows in Chelsea at the same time.
The curatorial conceit at Cheim & Read is to counter the notion of the male gaze by providing a group of works in which "the artist and subject do not relate as 'voyeur' and 'object' but as woman and woman.' " In this beautifully curated show, which spans over a century, 40 female artists--many from their own roster--turn the conventional male gaze inside out. Here there's pleasure in equality versus the longstanding idea of power over passivity.
Starting chronologically with the sad and shadowed visage of May Prinsep and the confrontational stare of a very butch Mme. Theodore Van Rysselberghe, the exhibition delivers a range of expression and emotion. The bodies are strong and beautiful, or fleshy and imperfect. The sex comes in several different flavors and positions. There's mystery, eroticism, humor, pain. In short, life. The installation delivers these from every angle.
Back in the foyer: another view of Kara Walker's silhouette and, over the desk, Mickalene Thomas, A-E-I-O-U and Sometimes Y, 2009, rhinestone, acrylic and enamel on panel, 24 x 20 inches (each); full view below. Both images from the gallery website
The three images below are what you see when you enter the main gallery. The vitrine with a Louise Bourgeois sculpture will orient you as we turn counterclockwise around the room. You can see these and all the works on the gallery's checklist. (These three images are mine; the gallery has many more.)
Sex, sex and sex: Louise Bourgeois, Couple, 2004, fabric and stainless steel, 11 x 28 x 14 1/2 inche, in the vitrine; behind that, Joan Semmel, Flip-Flop, 1971, oil on canvas, 68 x 138 inches .To the right: Lisa Yuskavage (hate it)
Below: Bourgeois's Couple
In the smaller back gallery, from left: Hannah van Bart, Vanessa Beecroft, Lynda Benglis, Tracey Emin. Image from the gallery website
Below: Capture from Lynda Benglis, Female Sensibility, 1973, video tape loop
With the video to your back, here's another view of the same back gallery: Victoria Civera, Judith Eisler, Beecroft, Ghada Amer. Image from the gallery website
Below: Vanessa Beecroft, Blonde Figure Lying, 2008, water resin coated with beeswax, human hair, 77 x 36 x 10 inches [when I saw this work in Miami it was not as yellow as it appears here; maybe it's an edition and this is a different work?]
Ghada Amer, The Woman Who Failed To Be Shehrazade, 2008, acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas, 62 x 68 inches
With Beecroft and Amer in the distance, we have now entered a third gallery looking at work by Ellen Gallagher, Hellen van Meene, and a large nude by—surprise—a young Joan Mitchell. Who knew this master of the lyrical mass painted such forthright figures early in her career? Image from the gallery website
Above: Gallagher, van Meene, Mitchell. Image from the gallery website
Below: Ellen Gallagher, Bouffant Pride, 2003, handmade collage, cutout, painting and photogravure on rag paper, 13.5 x 10.5 inches
Moving around the gallery we see a painting by Alice Neel similar in size to the Mitchell. Between them are photographs by Zoe Leonard (also below) and Catherine Opie.
Joan Mitchell (1925-1992), Untitled, circa 1945, oil on canvas, 54 x 35.75 inches; Alice Neel, (1990-1894), Olivia, 1975, oil on canvas, 54 x 34 inches. Image from the gallery website
From the third gallery looking back into the main space, with the Bourgeois vitrine to orient you. On the wall: Zoe Leonard, Untitled, 1988-90, gelatin silver prints, 6 x 9 inches each
The Female Gaze , is up through September 19 at Cheim & Read, 547 W. 25th. Go gaze.
If you can't make it to New York between now and then, the gallery website contains great installation shots, some of which I pulled and posted here (with attribution) and an image of every work in the show. My blog buddy Steven Alexander has written about the show, too.
Update 8.19. 09: James Kalm's video report on You Tube