Women subvert domesticity in US art show
Is home a burden, tied to endless chores and confinement, or a liberating shelter?
Turns out it can be both for women artists exploring and deconstructing notions of domestic space and gender in a show opening recently at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington.
Running across several generations and featuring 36 international artists working in various media, the result is full of humor.
In “Housewives Kitchen Apron” (1975), Austrian photographer Birgit Jurgenssen carries a literal “bun in the oven.” A loaf sticks out of an open door to an oven she carries with a strap around her neck.
Traditional gender roles become a chess game in British artist Rachel Whiteread’s 2005 sculpture “Modern Chess Set,” where the husband’s seating areas and television face off against the wife’s trash cans and dusters. The husband’s “king” is the fridge. The woman’s? The stove.
“The artists we chose, they are indeed interested in gender. But sometimes it’s poetic. Everything is not brutally feminist,” said Camille Morineau, who curated the show with Lucia Pesapane.
In one especially jolting installation, London-based Palestinian Mona Hatoum transforms ordinary kitchen utensils into a menacing situation.
A live current hums loudly and runs through the instruments laid out on a table behind horizontal metal wire, lighting up colanders and graters.
“Women House,” as the exhibition is titled, was inspired by a groundbreaking 1972 Los Angeles show organized by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro that explored similar themes.
In her 1998 video “Hammering Out (an old argument),” Italy’s Monica Bonvicini shows a woman’s arm using a hammer to repeatedly pound on a wall in a desperate effort to break it. The woman only manages to expose the underlying brick.
The work is juxtaposed with one by Dutch artist Lydia Schouten, shown in a tight-fitting white dance outfit rubbing against the bars of a color-coated iron cage.
The show runs through May 28.