The acquisitions included “Untitled (Frustula Series),” a circa 1978 cast concrete sculpture by Beverly Buchanan.

 

THE BROOKLYN MUSEUM recently organized more than a year of exhibitions and programming dedicated to feminist art. “A Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism at the Brooklyn Museum” marked the 10th anniversary of the museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. Spanning October 2016 through earlier this year, “A Year of Yes” explored “the history of feminism and feminist art while showcasing contemporary artistic practices and new thought leadership.” The institution concluded the groundbreaking series with a major acquisition announcement.

Through a combination of gifs and purchases, the Brooklyn museum acquired 96 works by mostly female artists, including 55 posters by the Guerrilla Girls, and works by Emma Amos, Beverly Buchanan (1940-2015), Nona Faustine, Betye Saar, Dread Scott, and Adejoke Tugbiyele. While only a handful of the new acquisitions are by African American artists, they represent some of the most significant works being brought into the museum’s Sackler Center, Contemporary Art, and Photography collections.

While only a handful of the new acquisitions are by African American artists, they represent some of the most significant works being brought into the museum’s Sackler Center, Contemporary Art, and Photography collections.

“A Year of Yes” included two major exhibitions devoted to black female artists—“Beverly Buchanan—Ruins and Rituals” (Oct. 21, 2016–March 5, 2017) and “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85” (April 21–Sept. 17, 2017). The works acquired by Amos, Buchanan, Saar, were drawn from these shows.

“We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85” was a historic show, examining for the first time on a major scale the intersection of race, feminism, and art history. The exhibition emphasized “the voices and experiences of women of color—distinct from the primarily white, middle-class mainstream feminist movement—in order to reorient conversations around race, feminism, political action, art production, and art history in this significant historical period.”

 


BETYE SAAR (American, b. 1926). “Liberation of Aunt Jemima: Cocktail,” 1973 (mixed media assemblage), 12 × 18 inches (30.5 × 45.7 cm). | Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by Elizabeth A. Sackler, Gift of the Contemporary Art Committee, and William K. Jacobs Jr. Fund, 2017.17, © Betye Saar and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, California

 

The Buchanan show was also a first. North Carolina-born Buchanan’s practice centered around the relationship between memory and place. Featuring about 200 objects, “Beverly Buchanan—Ruins and Rituals” was the most comprehensive exhibition ever mounted of her work.

Describing themselves as “feminist activist artists,” the Guerrilla Girls “use facts, humor and outrageous visuals to expose gender and ethnic bias, as well as corruption in politics, art, film, and pop culture.” The group’s initiatives include public projects, museum exhibitions and programming, as well as posters. In order to keep the focus of their work on the issues, members obscure their identity by donning gorilla masks in public and adopting pseudonyms inspired by dead artists, such as Alma Thomas. The collective is particularly known for its graphic posters that state shameful facts about the art world and its treatment of women artists and other underrepresented groups.

The Guerrilla Girls describe themselves as “feminist activist artists.” The collective is particularly known for its graphic posters that state shameful facts about the art world and its treatment of women artists and other underrepresented groups.

More than half of the acquisitions announced are posters by the Guerrilla Girls. Among them, a 1997 poster questioning the lack of diversity among the artists in a Museum of Modern Art exhibition “Objects of Desire: the Modern Still Life.” The headline on the group’s poster reads: “3 White Women, 1 Woman of Color and No Men of Color—Out of 71 Artists?” Another made in 1986 states: “Only 4 Commercial Galleries in N.Y. Show Black Women.* Only 1 Shows More Than 1,**” with the asterisks referring to Cavin-Morris, Condeso/Lawler, Bernice Steinbaum, and Schreiber/Cutler** galleries. While opportunities remain slim, three decades on, representation of black women artists in New York galleries is somewhat improved.

 


GUERRILLA GIRLS, “Only 4 Commercial Galleries in N.Y. Show Black Women. Only 1 Shows More Than 1.,” 1986 (offset lithography), 17 x 22 inches. | Copyright © Guerrilla Girls, Courtesy guerrillagirls.com

 

American-born artist of Nigerian heritage, Tugbiyele’s Gele Pride Flag “unites gay pride symbolism with material reference to her home country.” For important and celebratory events, Nigerian women wear special head scarves called gele. To create the flag, Tugbiyele sewed six gele together, forming a “rainbow” flag affirming gay pride and LGBT rights. She contributed the work to “Agitprop” (Dec. 11, 2015–Aug. 7, 2016), a major Sackler Center exhibition that considered the history of contemporary art and social change through the lens of agitation and propaganda.

In his artist statement, Scott, the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based photographer and performance artist, says he “makes revolutionary art to propel history forward.” His work was featured in “Agitprop” and “The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America,” which was on view at the Brooklyn Museum last year

A photographer and visual artist, Faustine gave an artist talk in conjunction with the Buchanan exhibition. Her practice explores identity, history, trauma, lineage, and representation. The museum acquired three of Faustine’s self portraits made at sites around New York City associated with slavery. The artist, who lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y., said she is averse to labels, but acknowledges the exposure and recognition the acquisition provides.

“I hate categories and labels,” Faustine told the Financial Times. “And I’d rather be seen as just an artist. But I don’t have that privilege right now. And if this strand of acquisition opens the door for women artists, then that’s what matters. What women artists want most is to be visible.” CT

 

The Sackler Center acquisitions included the following works by African American artists:

  • Adejoke Tugbiyele (American, b. 1977), “Gele Pride Flag,” 2014 (fabric, metallic thread, brass), Overall dimensions: 64 x 175 inches (162.6 x 444.5 cm). | Gift of the artist, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, 2016.24
  • Dread Scott (American, b. 1965), “On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide, Performance Still 1,” 2016 (Inkjet print, Edition: 1/2), Overall dimensions: 43 1/16 × 58 7/16 inches (109.4 × 148.4 cm). | Gift of the Contemporary Art Acquisitions Committee, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, 2016.25.1
  • Dread Scott (American, b. 1965), “On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide, Performance Still 2,” 2016 (Inkjet print, Edition: 1/2), Overall dimensions: 43 1/8 × 58 1/8 inches (109.5 × 147.6 cm). | Gift of the Contemporary Art Acquisitions Committee, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, 2016.25.2
  • Beverly Buchanan (American, 1940-2015), “Untitled (Frustula Series),” circa 1978 (cast concrete), Overall dimensions: [a]: 20 x 10 x 16 inches (50.8 x 25.4 x 40.6 cm); Overall dimensions: [b]: 12 x 15 1/2 x 15 in. (30.5 x 39.4 x 38.1 cm); Other dimensions: [c]: 22 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 14 1/4 in. (57.2 x 14 x 36.2 cm). | Gift of Arden Scott, 2017, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, 2017.9a-c
  • Betye Saar (American, b. 1926), “Liberation of Aunt Jemima: Cocktail,” 1973 (mixed media assemblage), Overall dimensions: 12 × 18 inches (30.5 × 45.7 cm). | Purchased with funds given by Elizabeth A. Sackler, gift of the Contemporary Art Committee, and William K. Jacobs Jr. Fund, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, 2017.17
  • Beverly Buchanan (American, 1940-2015), “To Prudence Lopp,” n.d. (metal, plastic, wood), Overall dimensions: 18 × 10 × 16 inches (45.7 × 25.4 × 40.6 cm). | William K. Jacobs Jr. Fund, Contemporary Art, 2017.32.1
  • Beverly Buchanan (American, 1940-2015), “Lillington, NC Harnett Co.,” 2007 (acrylic on foam core), Overall dimensions: 8 1/2 × 10 1/2 × 11 inches (21.6 × 26.7 × 27.9 cm). | William K. Jacobs Jr. Fund, Contemporary Art, 2017.32.2
  • Emma Amos (American, b. 1938), “Flower Sniffer,” 1966 (oil on canvas), Overall dimensions: 50 × 50 inches (127 × 127 cm), Frame: 51 × 51 × 1 7/8 inches (129.5 × 129.5 × 4.8 cm). | William K. Jacobs Jr. Fund, Contemporary Art, 2017.35
  • Nona Faustine (American), “Not Gone With The Wind, Lefferts House, Brooklyn,” 2016 (chromogenic photograph), Sheet: 27 15/16 × 42 inches (71 × 106.7 cm), Image: 26 5/8 × 40 inches (67.6 × 101.6 cm). | Emily Winthrop Miles Fund, Photography, 2017.41.1
  • Nona Faustine (American), “Isabelle, Lefferts House, Brooklyn,” 2016 (chromogenic photograph), Sheet: 27 15/16 × 42 inches (71 × 106.7 cm); Image: 26 9/16 × 40 inches (67.5 × 101.6 cm). | Emily Winthrop Miles Fund, Photography, 2017.41.2
  • Nona Faustine (American), “Lobbying the Gods For A Miracle, Brooklyn,” 2016 (chromogenic photograph), Sheet: 27 15/16 × 42 inches (71 × 106.7 cm); Image: 26 9/16 × 40 inches (67.5 × 101.6 cm). | Emily Winthrop Miles Fund, Photography, 2017.41.3
 

TOP IMAGE: BEVERLY BUCHANAN (American, 1940-2015),” Untitled (Frustula Series),” circa 1978 (cast concrete), a: 20 x 10 x 16 inches (50.8 x 25.4 x 40.6 cm). | Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Arden Scott, 2017, 2017.9a-c. © Beverly Buchanan

 

BOOKSHELF
“Beverly Buchanan: Shackworks, A 16-Year Survey” documents an exhibition at the Montclair Art Museum. “House and Home: Spirits of the South” was published to coincide with an exhibition featuring Beverly Buchanan, Max Belcher, and William Christenberry at the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. Two publications were produced to coincide with “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85,” a Sourcebook featuring an invaluable collection of historic articles about black women artist’s activities, insights, challenges, and triumphs navigating the art world, along with New Perspectives, a collection of original essays. “Emma Amos: Paintings and prints 1982-92” documents the artist’s 1993 solo exhibition at the College of Wooster Art Museum in Wooster, Ohio. Books about the Guerrilla Girls include “The Guerrilla Girls’ Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art” and the more recent “Un/Masked: Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl on Tour” by Donna Kaz. Two recent volumes document Betye Saar’s practice “Betye Saar: Uneasy Dancer” and “Betye Saar: Still Tickin’.”

 


Beverly Buchanan (American, 1940-2015), “To Prudence Lopp,” n.d. (metal, plastic, wood), 18 x 10 x 16 inches (14.7 x 25.4 x 40.6cm). | Brooklyn Museum, Gift of William K. Jacobs Jr. Fund, 2017. 32.1. © Beverly Buchanan

 


EMMA AMOS (American, born 1938), “Flower Sniffer,” 1966 (oil on canvas), 50 × 50 inches (127 × 127 cm). | Brooklyn Museum, William K. Jacobs, Jr. Fund, 2017.35. Art © Emma Amos/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

 

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