The challenge of Radical Women at The Hammer Museum

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985, installation view.

Hammer Museum has taken a new step into the realm of contemporary art by showcasing a large scale exhibition called Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985, which is an attempt to promote the experimental art by different women artists from various countries globally. Here, the viewer will witness forms of experimental arts very unique and different from one another. However, there is one theme that runs common in almost all of these artworks, which is, that they seek to mark a shift from Romanticism to the Absurdist school of art.

Here you may find work of various women artists such as of Ana Mendieta, Lygia Clark, etc. who attempt to challenge the old “patriarchal” notion regarding the function of art to be that of inspiring beauty and sacredness, especially of the female form. Instead, their art seeks to change the worldview by marking a shift by making art a medium to question the age-old cultural, political and social establishments and to challenge not only specific norms but the concepts of masculinity and femininity as such.

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985, installation view.

The influence of Post-modernism and radical feminism can be traced in these artworks which focus on female body and female sexuality. In fact, it is a new step forward in post-modernism. If post-modernism questioned the validity of any center, these experimental artworks replace it with a worldview which sees chaos as the new center because it is seen as a medium of liberation from order and a fixed centrality, things which are fundamentally challenged as they are deemed as inventions of patriarchy.

For instance, every earth body work of Ana Mendieta makes a statement that “gone are the days when one finds beauty in the age-old image of an elegant woman dressed in a summer dress waiting on a beach when it is sunny and where soft wind blows or a woman who feels elated because she is decked in a beautiful gown in a ball, admired by her lover for her beauty. Instead, these are seen as images of repression because they reflect what patriarchy has found beautiful about a woman’s body thus restricting a woman from choosing what she wants, whether it is about decisions regarding her own body or her freedom to flaunt a beard on her face without being ashamed about her choices, no matter how bizarre it may be for the rest of the world  (as Ana herself daringly did).  In her works, one gets a sense of the raw, carnal force which can only be fathomed by the most primal senses in a woman when she has lost all concerns of femininity in relation to masculinity.

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985, installation view.

While taking a tour of the museum, a viewer must look beyond trying to find a central meaning in these works because these works offer none. Instead, what they make possible is a subjective interpretation which differs from viewer to viewer and which doesn’t impose them with the rigidity of trying to find an objective meaning from the point of view of the artist. These works are instead like an open-ended book where everyone gets to write their own stories or to leave it blank if that is what they wish for and choose. Here, it is not even about “Beauty is in the eyes of a beholder”, but about “Whether beauty (especially of the female form) as we have known it so far, even something worth aspiring to?”

 

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985 at The Hammer Museum

Sep 15-Dec 31, 2017

 

Writing by V.M. Scott

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985, installation view.
Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985, installation view.
Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985, installation view.
Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985, installation view.
Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985, installation view.

 

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