CULTURE & ARTS

An Exhibition Dedicated To Black Women Artists Is Now On View In Brooklyn

Their influence on contemporary feminism and contemporary art is nothing less than cosmic.
Jan van Raay's photo of Faith Ringgold (right) and Michele Wallace (middle) at an Art Workers Coalition protest at the Whitne
Jan van Raay's photo of Faith Ringgold (right) and Michele Wallace (middle) at an Art Workers Coalition protest at the Whitney Museum in 1971.

The first exhibition featuring the work of exclusively black women artists took place in New York in 1971 ― it was titled “Where We At.”

Artists Vivian E. Browne, Dindga McCannon and Faith Ringgold organized the grassroots show, which featured the work of 14 artists at a Greenwich Village gallery run by artist and dealer Nigel Jackson. The exhibition’s success inspired the participating artists to form a collective, called WWA for short, who together went on to orchestrate other exhibitions, panel discussions, seminars and art workshops for local youth and incarcerated individuals. The cooperative went on to coordinate shows, publications and community events well into the 1980s. 

While the WWA artists adhered to many of the dominant ideologies of second-wave feminism ― equal pay for women, equal representation for women artists, equal respect for women’s work ― they aligned themselves with the black arts movement above the women’s liberation movement, which was led, for the most part, by white middle-class women.

Almost 50 years later, an exhibition devoted to the revolutionary impact of black female artists is now on view at The Brooklyn Museum. Titled “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85” the exhibition picks up six years before WWA and concludes 14 years after, including the work of 40 artists who grappled with the political, social and aesthetic implications of making art as a woman of color.

The show guides viewers through the black women artists who, without artistic antecedent or support from white male-dominated artistic institutions, went on to create work that is avant-garde, fearless, joyful, radical, angry and invigorating ― and often all at once. The exhibition is radically diverse in terms of the techniques and media included, which include performance, film, video art, conceptual art, photography, painting, sculpture and printmaking. The styles too run the gamut, from Barbara Chase-Riboud’s abstract sculpture ― which resembles an inky ballgown as much as an impenetrable shield ― to Emma Amos’ earth-toned painting of a couple slow dancing in their living room. 

The discrimination women artists of color face is not something of the past. In a climate where it is still difficult for most people to name five women artists, black women continue to be under-represented on museum walls, auction blocks and in history books. Today collectives like Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter and Black Art Incubator rigorously hold the art world accountable for its prejudices and blind spots.

This exhibition honors the black women who laid the groundwork for such contemporary artists, activists and artist-activists, whose influence on contemporary feminism and contemporary art is nothing less than cosmic. 

1. Senga Nengudi (American, b. 1943)

Senga Nengudi (American, born 1943), "Inside/Outside," 1977, nylon, mesh, rubber, approximately 60 x 24 inches. 
Senga Nengudi (American, born 1943), "Inside/Outside," 1977, nylon, mesh, rubber, approximately 60 x 24 inches. 

2. Jae Jarrell (American, b. 1935)

Jae Jarrell (American, born 1935), "Ebony Family," circa 1968, velvet dress with velvet collage.
Jae Jarrell (American, born 1935), "Ebony Family," circa 1968, velvet dress with velvet collage.

3. Dindga McCannon (American, b. 1947)

Dindga McCannon (American, born 1947). "Revolutionary  Sister," 1971, mixed media construction on wood, 62 x 27 inches.&
Dindga McCannon (American, born 1947). "Revolutionary  Sister," 1971, mixed media construction on wood, 62 x 27 inches. 

4. Faith Ringgold (American, b. 1930)

Faith Ringgold (American, b. 1930), "Early Works #25: Self-Portrait," 1965, oil on canvas, 50 x 40 inches. 
Faith Ringgold (American, b. 1930), "Early Works #25: Self-Portrait," 1965, oil on canvas, 50 x 40 inches. 

5. Beverly Buchanan (American, 1940–2015)

Beverly Buchanan (American, 1940-2015), "Untitled (Frustula Series)," circa 1978, cast concrete.
Beverly Buchanan (American, 1940-2015), "Untitled (Frustula Series)," circa 1978, cast concrete.

6. Emma Amos (American, b. 1938)

Emma Amos (America, born 1938), "Sandy and Her Husband," 1973, oil on canvas, 44.25 x 50.25 inches.
Emma Amos (America, born 1938), "Sandy and Her Husband," 1973, oil on canvas, 44.25 x 50.25 inches.

7.  Barbara Chase-Riboud (American, b. 1939)

Barbara Chase-Riboud (American, born 1939), "Confessions for Myself," 1972, black patinated bronze with wool, 120 x 40 x &nbs
Barbara Chase-Riboud (American, born 1939), "Confessions for Myself," 1972, black patinated bronze with wool, 120 x 40 x  12 inches. 

8. Maren Hassinger (American, b. 1947)

Maren Hassinger (American, born 1947), "Leaning," 1980, wire and wire rope,16 inches x variable width and depth.
Maren Hassinger (American, born 1947), "Leaning," 1980, wire and wire rope,16 inches x variable width and depth.

9. Lorraine O’Grady (American, b. 1934)

Lorraine O'Grady (American, born 1934), "Mlle Bourgeoise Noire Goes to the New Museum," 1981, oerformed at the New Museum, Ne
Lorraine O'Grady (American, born 1934), "Mlle Bourgeoise Noire Goes to the New Museum," 1981, oerformed at the New Museum, New York, gelatin silver print, 9.25 x 7 inches.

10. Howardena Pindell (American, b. 1930)

Howardena Pindell (American, born 1930), "Still from Free, White and 21," 1980, video, 12 minutes and 15 seconds.
Howardena Pindell (American, born 1930), "Still from Free, White and 21," 1980, video, 12 minutes and 15 seconds.

11. Betye Saar (American, b. 1926)

Betye Saar (American, born 1926), "Liberation of Aunt Jemima: Cocktail," 1973, mixed-media assemblage, 12 x 18 inches. 
Betye Saar (American, born 1926), "Liberation of Aunt Jemima: Cocktail," 1973, mixed-media assemblage, 12 x 18 inches. 

12. Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953)

Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953), "Mirror Mirror," 1987-88, silver print, 24.75 x 20.75 inches.
Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953), "Mirror Mirror," 1987-88, silver print, 24.75 x 20.75 inches.

13. Lona Foote (American, 1948–1993)

Lona Foote (American, 1948-1993), "Blondell Cummings performing Blind Dates at Just Above Midtown Gallery, November 1982," 19
Lona Foote (American, 1948-1993), "Blondell Cummings performing Blind Dates at Just Above Midtown Gallery, November 1982," 1982, photograph, 10 x 8 inches.

14. Lorna Simpson (American, b. 1960)

Lorna Simpson (American, born 1960), "Rodeo Caldonia" (Left to Right: Alva Rogers, Sandye Wilson, Candace Hamilton, Derin You
Lorna Simpson (American, born 1960), "Rodeo Caldonia" (Left to Right: Alva Rogers, Sandye Wilson, Candace Hamilton, Derin Young, Lisa Jones), 1986, photographic print, 8 x 10 inches.

“We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85” runs until Sept. 17 at The Brooklyn Museum as part of the institution’s “Year of Yes.”

 

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