The Mood Back Home, an exhibition inspired by Womanhouse (1972)
359 Bedford Avenue, between S. 4th and S. 5th, 718-218-8058
February 13 - March 16, 2009
Reception: Friday, February 13, 6 - 9 PM
The Mood Back Home an exhibition inspired by Womanhouse organized by Leslie Brack and Suzy Spence with work by Alyson Aliano, Pam Butler, Leslie Brack, Nicole Eisenman, Jessica Jackson-Hutchins, Karen Leo, Tara Mateik, Karyn Olivier, Bea Romeo, Suzy Spence, Kirsten Stoltmann, Jeanne Tremel, Pinar Yolacan
Friday, February 27, 7 pm- Film night with Mira Schor and Faith Wilding, A House is not a Home.
The Mood Back Home developed from discussions between two artists/new mothers, Leslie Brack and Suzy Spence, about the landmark project Womanhouse, created in 1972 by a group of CalArts students and their professors. This project seemed to be an under-appreciated Guernica of domesticity and gender issues. It also held special appeal because it was the product of an era in which the two artists’ own mothers undertook a critical negotiation of motherhood, marriage, domestic work, and their careers. Reviewing documentation of the project, Brack and Spence found that the installations “Womb Room” (Faith Wilding), “Menstruation Bathroom” (Judy Chicago), and the all-pink “Kitchen” (Robin Weltsch), with their direct, challenging, feminist voices, still held relevance 36 years later.
Like Womanhouse, The Mood Back Home addresses the stubborn nature of gender prescribed domesticity and its effect on women artists. The exhibition will highlight Johanna Demetrekas’ documentary film, Womanhouse in the gallery – but will otherwise focus on work of a new generation of women, the ostensible inheritors of 70’s era feminism as well of the Reagan-era backlash that followed.
Kirsten Stoltmann contributes a collage titled Autonomous Wife made of Snoopy stickers and a rug defaced with the text, “Jealousy is a Bitch” in spray paint. Alyson Aliano’s photographic portraits of individual mothers at home with their children puts a new spin on the often saccharine genre of mother and child. Nicole Eisenman’s watercolor portrays a cheerful domestic scene in which breast milk is squirted into the cereal bowls of hungry children. Jessica Jackson Hutchins’ hobby horse encrusted with ceramic growths updates the original “Nursery” in Womanhouse.” Tara Mateik’s video of the performance Putting the Balls Away relives and comments on the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” which pitted tennis players Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs against each other in a rare moment of sports competition between genders. Jeanne Tremel’s sculptures disconnect the humble home practice of crochet from any practical use, unleashing a modest and rebellious exuberance. One of Karen Leo’s two videos, Momma’s House, has the artist dressed in a knitted Bruce Willis costume dancing with her mother to a John Denver sound track. Pinar Yolacan contributes portrait photographs of aging women whose elegant presentation is complicated by dresses adorned with meat and organ products. Suzy Spence’s Auctionhouse is a Duchampian box containing paper miniatures of Sotheby’s auctioneer Tobias Meyer selling art works from the original Womanhouse to eager collectors. Leslie Brack’s paintings based on photo fragments from 1970s Life magazines project a black humor that seems uncannily congruous to our own time. During rare quiet moments between mothering responsibilities, Bea Romeo uses delicate ink lines to render family members as featureless, floating heads of hair.
Womanhouse is remembered for its site-specific domestic installations in which artists responded to every room of the house. In this spirit, Karyn Olivier has created a piece for the Momenta Art office while Pam Butler has taken over the bathroom with a plethora of imagery.
Johanna Demetrakas’ film, Womanhouse, a documentary of the installations, performances, and consciousness-raising sessions, will be playing in the exhibition and screened at a film night on February 27. Mira Schor and Faith Wilding, two of the original participants, will introduce that work and screen a little-seen PBS video, A House if Not a Home by Lynne Littman, KCET Los Angeles, originally aired February 1972.
As a permanent tribute to Womanhouse, and to give it a much-needed internet “home,” the curators have researched and built a website archive. Several of the original Womanhouse artists shared unpublished photographs and provided texts. In contrast with other important work from that period, much of the art from that exhibition was destroyed, stolen, or poorly documented, leaving its significance largely overlooked by a market- and material-driven art world. Please visit this important website project at womanhouse.refugia.net.
Momenta Art is supported by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, The Greenwall Foundation, Greenwich Collection, Ltd., The Jerome Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and individual contributors.