April 6, 2009

Rail Review: The Mood Back Home

I wrote about The Mood Back Home, an exhibition at Momenta Art for the April issue of The Brooklyn Rail. Here's an excerpt.

"Immediately confronting visitors to The Mood Back Home, a thoughtful and evocative group exhibition organized by Suzy Spence and Leslie Brack at Momenta Art, is Jessica Jackson Hutchins’s 70s-vintage spring-mounted hobby horse, whose head has been covered with crudely applied wads of clay in tumor-like growths. It is a piece that, as intended, renders palpable both the frustration and the playfulness that results when contemporary artists are ensnared in domestic life.

"Brack and Spence conceived of the show as a tribute to an update of the feminist art classic, Womanhouse, a 1972 collaborative project created in an abandoned Hollywood house by CalArts grad students and their teachers, Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro. While male artists like Donald Judd and Richard Serra were using spare construction materials to create cerebral Minimalism, the women involved in Womanhouse mastered construction skills to renovate the dilapidated house and explore radical ideas about homemaking. Once the renovation was complete, they held performances and created installations with titles like 'Eggs to Breasts,' 'Aprons in Kitchen,' and 'Bridal Staircase' that frankly and mercilessly examined the female experience, traditional gender roles, and domesticity. At the time, this type of guerrilla project was rare, and an uninitiated public was invited to walk through the project. Johanna Demetrakas’s documentary, also titled Womanhouse, which was screened for a packed audience in conjunction with the Momenta Art exhibition, captures their often bemused reactions.

"The Mood Back Home shows that both art and feminism have come a long way since 1972. Womanhouse enlisted earnest art students who chafed at the limitations that domesticity and motherhood bode for them, and were intent on rejecting them. In contrast, Spence and Brack have assembled work by older artists who have experienced the difficulties and contradictions of domesticity firsthand, and apprehended it as something more complex and rich than the Womanhouse artists speculated it would be. Of course, it was Womanhouse that made The Mood Back Home possible: without the brave combativeness of the early feminists, the next generation of women would scarcely have had the freedom to choose the lives they have...." Read more.

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