Celebrating Kindred Spirits and Strange Bed Fellows, group show, A.I.R Gallery, New York

                                       
Date/Time Category(ies)
28/03/2012 - 21/04/2012
00:00            
             
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As A.I.R. Gallery enters its Fortieth Year – celebrating four decades of supporting women artists and being an important contributor to the diversity of the New York art world – it is a pleasure to participate in helping to shape the 2012 National/International Exhibition. I use the term shape rather than curate because the parameters of this exhibition do not fit those of a standard curatorial effort. Nor is this a juried exhibition in the usual meaning of that term. Rather, I was invited to review submissions made by each of the twenty national and international members and from that pool organize an exhibition which included all the artists. The pleasure of this approach for a curator is in the expansiveness of project. Rather than being expected to hone the pool of artists into a thematic group that satisfied some criteria of my own devising, I found myself looking at the work individually and thinking about how to best represent each artist as an individual. In this sense, this installation is more akin to being twenty one-person shows rather than being a presentation that argues for some formal or conceptual cohesion. And while making a claim for twenty one-person shows is perhaps a stretch, it accurately describes the method I found myself employing while looking closely at each artist’s work.

Making a case for the individuation that largely guided my selection process for the works of art does not mean, however, that I don’t also see a cohesive tie between all the artists in this show. It is clear that the glue that holds this group together is a commitment to A.I.R. Gallery – and, by extension, a dedication to the social, cultural and political priorities that A.I.R. represents. The women who have contributed to, built, fostered and guided A.I.R. Gallery for forty years do not constitute a movement or school with all that those art historical designations imply. Instead, what I see in them is a cohesive and vitally important social force with a unique commitment to a joint cultural and political mission.

And for me this speaks to the fluid strength of the methodological framework offered by feminism. One strong feminist interest that has linked A.I.R. artists since its founding remains firmly at the forefront of this exhibition. The artists in the show all inject a twenty-first century impetus into that most enduring of seventies feminist conceptions: the personal is political. If this notion is so firmly embedded in our culture at this point as to seem self-evident, the validity of the method continues to be proven in much of the work by the National and International Artists. This is the kindred spirit that comes through in looking at hundreds of images by twenty contemporary women artists. The bedfellows become strange when the assignment tries, unnecessarily, to argue for more than that. A celebration is much more fitting, and is certainly in the spirit of an institution that for forty years has supported, sustained and advocated for women artists.

-Catherine J. Morris