FIGHT LIKE A GIRL – ACTIVISM & FEMINISM IN ART
29 MAY 2021
Climate Crisis, Fridays for Future, Black Lives Matter, The Future is female – is activism female?
The exhibition features three international female artists/activists. It challenges stereotypes, explores the activist, society-changing potential of art and celebrates diversity. The three artists live in the USA, but also hold a mirror up to us in Europe through their political art. Right-wing pressure and racism are increasingly noticeable worldwide, including in Germany. Corona makes travelling and contact difficult. International cooperation, influence and commitment beyond one’s own nose are the order of the day. VAN HORN becomes an interface and exciting venue between art, feminism and activism.
Wendy White’s “Jofa” is a usable lounge installation made of used men’s jeans with the crotch cut out. The combination of deconstructing patriarchy and upcycling is the driving idea here. White says: “I buy the jeans second hand so I can choose the right brands, styles and washes. […] Big jeans are ideal because you get more surface area. When the man is out of them, you have a nice big strip of fabric to make something new. I lay them out and construct the compositions like paintings, as if the legs were brushstrokes. It’s very direct.”
In her portrait series, White uses images of female athletes, popular icons and strong women who have cleared the way for other women despite all obstacles. The portraits combine airbrushing, inkjet printing and sculptural elements, in this work a black rainbow alluding to digital emojis.
Billie Jean King is an American former World No. 1 professional tennis player. She won 39 Grand Slam titles and represented the US in Federation- and Wightman Cup – 7 times victorious. King is an advocate for gender equality and has long been a pioneer for equality and social justice. Legendary is the „Battle of the Sexes“ in which she in 1973, at age 29, won a tennis match against the 55-year-old Bobby Riggs.
In the work Peace (with drips), White refers to the peace sign of the hippie movement as a pop cultural symbol and its transposition into contemporary “emoji” language. The drips make the peace sign look like it is melting, supported only by rainbow stripes that are actually packing straps. Here again, the feeling of a cultural snapshot is established, literally floating in the middle of the room above ones head. Wendy White, *1971, lives and works in New York City. Her work is a permanent investigation and expansion of the possibilities of traditional painting. She uses a wide range of non-classical materials, such as custom-made acrylic glass panes and frames made of PVC, carpets or wood. The chosen forms of presentation also deviate from classical forms, for example when she places works on the floor or on the wall or lays carpets. There are influences from the most diverse cultural spheres: Gender relations are questioned, positions of power revealed, commercial hierarchies exposed, brand fetishism and advertising thematised. What all the works have in common is, that they come with a coolness and a strong attitude all of their own, which does not care about what is aesthetically hip and pleasing, but is not afraid to raise critical questions and – from an aesthetic point of view – surprises again and again.
The installation „Sanctuary“ was originally exhibited at VAN HORN in 2008. It shows Bowers’ exploration of direct action and non-violent civil disobedience enacted through the lives of women. In this body of work she continues to consider the intersections between aesthetics and political protest. Bowers investigates the role of art in the reconsideration of historical records, storytelling and documentation. Included in the project are a video film and photographs.
Elvira Arellano was an undocumented mexican immigrant. on Aug. 15, 2006 she began her vigil against a deportation order to avoid being separated from her eight year old son Saul, who is a U.S. citizen. Both entered into sanctuary at the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago. Less than three weeks later, Arellano was separated from her son and deported to Mexico. While involved in one of the most contentious political debates in the U.S. – that of immigration – Arellano’s courage and dignity drew Bowers to her story. She interviewed Arellano two weeks prior to her one-year anniversary in sanctuary. In 2014 Arellano returned to Chicago, applying for Asylum. She is a prominent activist, still fighting for the cause. Her application for Asylum is still pending.
Andrea Bowers, *1965 in Ohio, lives and works in Los Angeles. As a feminist and activist, her work addresses contemporary political issues such as immigration, environmental activism and feminism. She combines aesthetic
practice with a political stance in sculptures, films, multimedia objects and documentary works. Mostly this involves a feminist, social and ecological perspective. Bowers pursues work that is informed by historical consciousness, that addresses our times and at the same time the history of political activism and visual languages. Her work reveals the issues of the past years, the developments about ecology, environmental and climate protection. The sense of isolation and vulnerability in her motifs is particularly strong. In 2021 she will have solo-shows at the Hammer Museum in L.A. and the MCA in Chicago. Andrea Bowers had her first solo-show at VAN HORN in 2005.
Love Letters (After Emily Feather)*
Katie Holten’s new work continues her exploration of language. Love Letters (2021) is a series of drawings on paper that play with the physicality of language. Holten writes and rewrites words (some well-known statements by famous women) in ink and then presses them, like little Rorschach’s or entomological specimens. Words mirror themselves, like insects and other living beings. For example, Me becomes We. The intricate drawings look like hieroglyphics, sharing mysterious messages, but on close examination the viewer can decipher words. Change is coming, whether you like it or not. The drawings include inspirational quotes and calls to action from women such as Angela Davis, Greta Thunberg, Chelsea Manning, Kathleen Cleaver, Anita Hill, Vandana Shiva, Terry Tempest Williams, and others. When we’re screwed, we multiply, anonymous.
Holten’s alphabet projects start from a simple premise: Can we create a language beyond the Human? Katie Holten believes there are ‘unconscious’ alphabets all around us waiting to be discovered, unearthed, remembered. Holten used her first Tree Alphabet to make the critically acclaimed book About Trees (Broken Dimanche Press, 2015).
Katie Holten studies the entangled relationship between Humans and Nature. Her recent work investigates language, unpeeling the potential of representation as our species adapts to life in the Anthropocene. A recurring theme in her works is the urgent need for sharing new stories – for ourselves, for our communities, and for our species – in order to address local and global problems, to engage in action, and to negotiate change.
* Katie Holten (1975) collects artworks made in 1975. Her Love Letters are a homage to Bruce Conner’s DECK drawings, which he started in 1975 and attributed to Emily Feather and others.
Katie Holten *1975, lives and works in New York City, Montecito and Ireland. She represented Ireland at the 50th Venice Biennale (2003) with a solo pavilion presentation entitled Laboratorio della Vigna. Other solo museum exhibitions include VISUAL in Ireland (2020), the New Orleans Museum of Art in New Orleans (2012), Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane in Dublin (2010), The Bronx Museum of the Arts in New York (2009); Villa Merkel in Esslingen (2008), Nevada Museum of Art in Reno (2008) and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2007). Holten has conceived major public commissions including TREE MUSEUM for New York City (2009-10) commissioned by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the Bronx Museum and Wave Hill. She has been the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, including a Fulbright Scholarship, Pollock Krasner Award, MacDowell Fellowship and Bursaries from the Arts Council of Ireland. Katie Holten and Daniela Steinfeld look back to a collaboration beginning in 2005.
THE EXHIBITION IS SUPPORTED BY