Posts

Guerrilla Girls Billboard (aka the Guerrilla Girls Poster), 1989

Image
This billboard was commissioned by a coalition of anonymous, female artists known for donning gorilla suits at their meetings. This piece calls out the harsh reality of how museums have been organized in the past, and how they still are for the most part today. This billboard is one of many that the Guerrilla Girls commissioned in order to expose the racial and sexual discrimination that has long been dominant in the art world. The billboard uses a grayscale print of the Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, with a gorilla head plastered wear the female head should be. This is not only branding the billboard but also criticizing the artwork as well. It’s pointing out that no one really cares about the woman’s individuality, but rather just her body and sexuality. By censoring the face, they show how women’s voices have been silenced in the art world. It is very to the point, the statistics to the right probably haven’t changed much in the last 30 years which is most disa…

Ana Mendieta, Imagen de Yagul, 1973

Image
This piece by Ana Mendieta is a part of a series of photographs she took in Mexico in which she used her own body to create the subject matter. This photograph in particular shows the femininity of the artist, as well as her unavailability to the viewer. The conservative placement of the flora wrapping around her nude body censor any erotic imagery such as breasts or genitalia. She’s not laying in any seductive manner, and you can’t see her face, so you can’t read her emotions. In fact, she is posed rather rigid and cold, almost as if she is dead and the flowers have begun to grow around her corpse. There is nothing sexual about this photograph even though she is naked. She’s nude, but she’s not seductive, or provocative, she’s one with nature and the flora that is surrounding her. She could also be a woman that’s trapped in a web of social expectations. Some of these expectations that this flora could represent are feminine qualities and delicacy. However, I think that this piece is…

Yoko Ono, Cut Piece, 1965

Image
Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece is a famous early performance piece done in 1964. Yoko Ono sat on a stage and instructed people to come up and cut off pieces of her clothing. The reason she did this is because she wanted to show criticism against artists that just gave their work without taking. So, she wanted to give people the freedom to cut her clothes from wherever they wanted to. One by one people came up and snipped away piece of her clothing. The female participants seemed to be more conservative when they were cutting away her clothes. They would generally cut smaller pieces from non-provocative areas such as the arms or legs. The male participants, however, were not so conservative. They tended to cut larger pieces, starting with cutting off entire sleeves, eventually cutting the straps to Yoko Ono’s brassier, prompting her to end the performance. This piece was one of the most influential performance pieces. It was important not just for performance art, and pop art trends to come in …

Mikalene Thomas, A Little Taste of Outside Love, 2007

Image
This piece by Mikalene Thomas captures all the class and seductive qualities of European art, while adding a feminist, African-American twist. In part, this piece was inspired by the women of the Black Power Movement and photographs that Thomas’s mother had taken in the 1970s. The subject is an African-American woman lying on a large, beautiful bed. She’s posed similarly to Olympia and Venus of Urbino, but she’s taking over their beds. She’s saying, no longer will I be a background character in your paintings, this is my bed, and my house, and I am who you need to look at. She’s gentle and seductive, and confident. She’s not shy, but she’s not overly seductive. The painting is abstracted, so her character is flat, but the black and white pattern on the cloth on the bed make her stand out. In other artworks, black women are typically seen as servants, and they are generally very dark, sometimes enough to disappear into the background. Here, the black woman is the subject, she’s not in…

Wangechi Mutu, Preying Mantra, 2006

Image
This piece by Wangechi Mutu is all about taking back the African female form from these racist, sexist ideals that have haunted black women for hundreds of years. In previous artworks, we have seen how black women are depicted as sexual, unintelligent, secondary characters. They are rarely the subject matter, and if they are it’s over-sexualized, over-exaggerated, and displayed as exotic erotica. What Wangechi Mutu does in this piece is she combines all these ideas, as well as a nod to classical paintings, to depict not a nude woman, but the injustices done in the oppressive colonization of Africa by European nations. First, we see and abstracted woman lying in a classical pose on top of Kuba cloth, which is native to Kenya, where Mutu was born. It’s full of symbology, there’s trees, which are a part of those people’s creation story as well as many others around the world. There’s also a serpent, which we see a lot in classical art usually in reference to sin associated with the Bibl…

Tarsila do Amaral, Anthropophagy, 1929

Image
This piece by Tarsil do Amaral is considered to be primitivism. It’s an abstracted, racist ideal of workers of African descent in South America. First, we can assume that these people worked on banana plantations as they are banana shaped, and yellow. Next, these figures in the subject have small heads, large breasts, and large feet. The small heads suggest that the figures are unintelligent, or uncivilized. Next, the large breasts represent fertility and they could also suggest the idea of nudity, or primitive sexuality. The large feet on the figures represent labor and once again the notion that these figures are uncivilized. The reason that large feet suggests that these figures are uncivilized is because they are barefoot which again refers to the nudity. These figures don’t have any eyes, mouths, ears, or noses either which can also represent their unintelligence and unicivilized manner. It’s showing that they don’t think and are very physically driven. They reproduce, and labor…

Edouard Manet, Olympia, 1863

Image
This piece by Manet was one of the most controversial pieces of art in Paris at the time of its debut in 1863. First, there was the subject matter. The subject is a high-class Parisian prostitute and her black female servant. The subject, Olympia, is trying to seduce the viewer. In the art world at the time, this was not appropriate. Nudity was generally reserved for figures representing mythological fables or tales. Olympia was not a goddess, or a mythological figure, she was a “real” prostitute in Paris and this shocked the public. Again, the representation of a black woman is very dark, almost blending into the black background. She wasn’t the main subject, but there to represent “primitive sexuality” and to show that Olympia was a high-class prostitute. Finally, this piece is definitely inspired by Titian’s Venus of Urbino, but critics saw it as a direct insult to the classical piece. For one, classical paintings are very precise and technical whereas Manet did not hide his brush…