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Natalie Frank: Unbound

June 5, 2021 – October 24, 2021

Gouache and chalk pastel illustration featuring a girl from the chest up blended with a wolf
Natalie Frank, All Fur III, from Tales of the Brothers Grimm (2011–14). Gouache and chalk pastel on paper, 30 x 22 inches. Private Collection.

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) and Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (Kemper Museum) are pleased to present Natalie Frank: Unbound, the first survey exhibition of Brooklyn, New York-based artist Natalie Frank’s drawings inspired by some of the best-known and most controversial literary narratives.

Spanning a decade of Frank’s feminist drawing practice, Unbound will present work from the artist’s four major drawing series, each of which is the result of Frank’s rigorous research. “Fairy tales captivated me because many began as women’s oral tales that articulated female desires and fears,” said Frank. “Yet over time their authorship was erased and their voices neutered. I restore the identities of these overlooked female artists and transform their stories to create contemporary, paradigm-breaking female heroines.”

In “Tales of the Brothers Grimm” (2011–14), Frank presents the unvarnished original nineteenth century versions of these tales as images that celebrate female agency by elevating heroines and villainesses alike. In each of her twenty black-and-white gouache-on-paper drawings, she represents a key scene from Jack Zipes’s anthology “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (2017).

In a suite of gouache and chalk pastel drawings, Frank reclaims the feminist “Story of O” (2017– 18) and gives image to the psychosexual narratives of the book’s key scenes. Finally, Frank’s drawings of “Madame d’Aulnoy’s” (2019–20) shrewd heroines are anything but conventional. She presents the author’s fantastical stories through a complex layering of color, form, material, and gesture.

Unbound will be on view at MMoCA June 5– October 24, 2021, before traveling to Kemper Museum in Kansas City, MO, where it will be on view from January 28–May 15, 2022. The exhibition was extended from October 3, 2021.

Natalie Frank, Story of O XV (2017–18). Gouache and chalk pastel on paper, 30 x 20 inches. Collection of Kathleen and Chris Loughlin.
Virtual Tour

Take a self-guided virtual tour of Natalie Frank: Unbound here.

Exhibition Support

Major Sponsorship for Natalie Frank: Unbound has been provided by Tom and Peggy Pyle; with additional support from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.