Body Gesture

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Nude on Tracks B, 1975/2005 Archival Print On Hahn Rag With Pigmented Inks 18 X 26”, Edition Of 3 © Courtesy of the artist & Elizabeth Leach Gallery
Body Gesture

417 N.W. 9th Avenue
97209 Portland
November 22nd, 2011 - January 28th, 2012
Opening: January 5th, 2012 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

United States
Tue-Sat 10:30-5:30 and by appointment.
needlepoint, text, photography, video-art, sculpture


The Elizabeth Leach Gallery is thrilled to present the final installment of our 30th Anniversary Exhibition Program. Launched in 1981, the gallery has focused on presenting prominent Northwest and internationally established artists working in a wide variety of contemporary media, bolstering a dynamic dialogue between the local community and the global art world. Throughout 2011 the gallery has presented a series of exhibitions exploring these relationships, from both an historical perspective, and with an eye toward the future.

To conclude the gallery’s 30th Anniversary exhibition program, the Elizabeth Leach Gallery is pleased to present Body Gesture, an exhibition of historical and contemporary feminist art. This exhibition will feature several artists whose representations of the human body, as well as their physical art making processes, evoke the political. The exhibition will be on view November 22, 2011 - January 28, 2012, with a First Thursday reception on January 5, 2012, from 6 - 8 pm.
The late 1960s and 1970s saw the emergence of what, today, is typically referred to as “Feminist Art.” Rooted in the concurrent women’s rights movement of the 1970s, Feminist Art functioned, in part, as an articulation of the methods and objectives of the political movement. Through their work many female artists of this era critiqued prevailing power structures, took increasing ownership of their personal sexuality, exploited assumptions about domesticity, and highlighted the institutional marginalization of women and minorities. These artists employed, and radicalized, many of the same formal and conceptual strategies practiced by their male contemporaries. Ultimately, Feminist artists’ multidisciplinary, performance-based practices, engagement with process-oriented and conceptual methods, and use of film and video proved to be remarkably influential on subsequent generations of artists, both male and female. In fact, the argument could be made that Feminist Art definitively altered contemporary art, shifting the conversation back toward narrative and personal experience, while aiding in the legitimization of performance, video art, and multidisciplinary practices. However, as the visibility of the political Feminist movement has decreased, so too has the prominence of Feminist Art waned. By pairing works by important female artists of the 1970s and 1980s with work by emerging female artists Body Gesture attempts to investigate the role of Feminism in art today.

Lynda Benglis (b. 1941) is an American sculptor, photographer, and filmmaker, whose abstract, process-based sculptures are often made from toxic, industrial materials, such as latex and polyurethane. Benglis lives and works in New York, NY, and had a retrospective exhibition at the New Museum (New York, NY) earlier this year.

Andrea Bowers’ (b. 1965) art practice is synonymous with her social activism, examining issues of women’s rights,  immigration, class discrimination, and racism. She received her MFA from California Institute of the Arts (Valencia, CA) in 1992, and is based in Los Angeles. She is represented by Suzanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects and Andrew Kreps Gallery (New York, NY).

Sophie Calle (b. 1953) explores and subverts issues of power and privacy in her photo and text-based artwork. In 2003, the Centre Pompidou (Paris, France) presented a retrospective exhibition of Calle’s work. She lives and works in Paris, France.

Nicole Eisenman (b. 1965) has recently focused her attention primarily on painting. Her current paintings probe small moments of human experience and intimacy, such as a shared kiss, or drinking with friends. Originally from France, Eisenman received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI) in 1987.

Jenny Holzer’s  (b. 1950) conceptual, text-based works are often blunt aphorisms (called “Truisms” by Holzer), presented in public spaces, coldly drawing the viewer’s attention to dark truths about consumerism, relationships, and power dynamics. Holzer’s work has been exhibited internationally, including at the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY) in 2009.

Rachel Lachowicz (b. 1964) constructs sculptures out of make-up and cosmetics that slyly send up the works of well-known, usually male, pop and minimalist artists. She received her BFA from the California Institute of the Arts (Valencia, CA) in 1988.

Ellen Lesperance’s (b. 1971) paintings on paper zero in on one intimate, aesthetic detail of the culture of 1970’s protest - the hand knit sweater. The winner of the Seattle Art Museum’s 2010 Betty Bowen Award, Lesperance was also included in the 2010 People’s Biennial, curated by Harrell Fletcher and Jens Hoffmann. She is based in Portland, OR.

Alice Neel (1900 - 1984)
was a lifelong figurative painter, steadfastly pursuing realist portraiture. Painted from life, Neel’s portraits are notably probing and intimate. Before Neel passed away, she achieved the recognition she had sought for many years, receiving retrospective exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY), and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (Philadelphia, PA).

Elaine Reichek (b. 1943) works primarily with needle and thread, often creating needlepoint reproductions of famous paintings, accompanied by text. Though she originally sewed all of her work by hand, in recent years she has begun to utilize a computer-programmed sewing-machine. Born in New York, NY, Reichek studied painting at Yale University with Ad Reinhardt.

Martha Rosler (b. 1943) is a New York-based conceptual artist, known for her seminal videos Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975) and Vital Statistics of a Citizen, Simply Obtained (1977), as well as her photomontages which appropriate and mock images from advertising.

Carolee Schneemann (b. 1939)
is perhaps best known for her performances, including the orgiastic Meat Joy (1964) and the bracingly intimate Interior Scroll (1975), both of which engage with the inherent power of women’s sexuality. Schneemann continues to be an active artist, with an exhibition on view at the Henry Art Gallery (Seattle, WA) through December 30, 2011.

Amy Sillman (b. 1955)
is an American painter whose work has had an enormous amount of influence on the current generation of emerging artists. Her primarily abstract paintings emerge from the Abstract Expressionist tradition; they are immensely active, physical works, but follow a certain compositional logic, seeming to refer to an intangible narrative. Sillman lives and works in New York, NY.

Lorna Simpson (b. 1960)
is a multimedia artist who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Her work often combines photographs with text, and is frequently presented in serialized groups, indexing body parts or hairstyles, examining assumptions about race and physical appearance in American culture. She is represented by Salon 94 (New York, NY).

Alexis Smith (b. 1949)
is an assumed name, taken from a popular actress of the 1940s and 50s. Since the 1970s, Smith has appropriated images and text from advertising and Hollywood, dissecting the eternal pop cultural tug-of-war between the idealized housewife and the glamourous movie star. Smith received her BA from the University of California at Irvine in 1970. She is based in Los Angeles, CA

Nancy Spero (1926 - 2009)
was primarily a representational painter, whose work overtly confronted personal and political power relationships, engaging some of the darkest aspects of humanity. A Marxist and Feminist organizer, in 1974 Spero began to only represent women in her work, excluding male figures entirely.

Mickalene Thomas’ (b. 1971)
best known paintings are brightly-colored, rhinestone-studded depictions of intensely strong, seemingly monumental, and often African-American, women. Thomas received her MFA from Yale University (New Haven, CT) in 2002. She is based in Brooklyn, NY.

Hannah Wilke (1940 - 1993)
began her career in the early 1960s as a sculptor. However, she ultimately used a wide variety of media - video, photography, latex, and chewing gum - to incorporate every aspect of her human experience into her artistic practice, including her relationships, sexuality, and ultimately her battle with cancer and her death.