Girls and Company examines the legacy of feminism in art through paintings, photographs, and prints from the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Through thoughtful and ground-breaking works, the exhibition examines female bodies, icons, and language, as well as the underlying system of sexism that has affected so many artists. Girls and Company uncovers issues that continue to confront artists, while also posing the question: what does it mean to be a feminist artist today?
Among the artists in the exhibition are the Guerrilla Girls, a collaborative activist group founded in 1985. Members of the group adopted the names of famous women artists and wore gorilla masks to hide their identities; this strategy effectively ensured that the discussion they stirred would be about issues, not their personal careers. With their distinctive graphic sensibilities and bold use of language, the Guerrilla Girls created awareness of discrimination in the art world and beyond.
Works by the Guerrilla Girls on view in Girls and Company were included in Urban Images, a 1989 exhibition at the Madison Art Center (now MMoCA). Another work from Urban Images that will be included in the current exhibition is Curb Your Animal Instincts by the New York-based artist Ilona Granet. This painted metal sign incorporates graphic sensibilities and a social message in a work of high art.
One of two male artists in the exhibition, documentary photographer Nicholas Nixon, may be best known for his series titled The Brown Sisters. In the work shown in Girls and Company, titled St. Petersburg, Florida, he focuses his lens on a group of adolescent girls. The young women in the photograph seem empowered as they stare back at the camera, self-aware beyond their years.
Other artists included in the exhibition are Diane Arbus, Joan Brown, Jenny Holzer, Mary Laird, Jin Lee, Marisol, Lev T. Mills, Nancy Mladenoff, Frances Myers, Anne Noggle, Christina Ramberg, Miriam Schapiro, Cindy Sherman, and Hollis Sigler.
Generous funding for Girls and Company: Feminist Works from MMoCA’s Permanent Collectionhas been provided by Holly Cremer Berkenstadt; Joe and Margo Melli; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board, with funds from the State of Wisconsin, and the Art League of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.
The following education programs will take place in conjunction with Girls and Company. All are free and open to the public.
Up Close: The Guerrilla Girls
Thursday, June 19 · noon
MMoCA curator of exhibitions Jane Simon leads a discussion of Curb Your Animal Instincts and other art by the Guerrilla Girls on view in Girls and Company. Simon’s talk will be followed by a free screening of Guerrillas in Our Midst (see description below).
Guerrillas in our Midst
A Film by Amy Harrison
1992, 35 minutes, color
Thursday, June 19 · 12:30 pm
Since 1985, the Guerrilla Girls have delivered witty and biting commentary aimed at gender and racial disparities in culture, politics, and the art world. Guerrillas in our Midst documents the work of this savvy and anonymous group of activist artists. Lecture hall.
Friday, June 20 · 6:30 pm
Melanie Herzog, professor of art history and director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Edgewood College, discusses Girls and Company: Feminist Work from MMoCA’s Permanent Collection.