The title of this lively summer show raised interesting questions about feminist art—past and present—as well as about the continuing viability of the term itself. The press release described the show as a sequel to the 1994 “Bad Girls” exhibitions curated by Marcia Tucker at the New Museum and Marcia Tanner at UCLA’s Wight Art Gallery, but it was difficult to detect much of a direct lineage here. The implication that there has been a resurgence of boisterous, feminist humor and sexual innuendo in art, is problematic. Did it ever go away?
Nevertheless, the cross-generational mix of women artists offered a wonderful range of painting, sculpture, video, photography, and drawing. Ridykeulous’s lesbian adaptation of the Guerrilla Girls’s The Advantages of Being a Woman Artist (1989), Ann Hirsch’s video spoof of television’s The Bachelor documenting her appearance on a raunchy reality show, and octogenarian Alice Mackler’s phallic ceramic sculptures accounted for some funny, in-your-face works. Vaginal Davis’s portraits made with makeup and food coloring were dreamy and poignant, while hovering between representation and abstraction were Marina Kappos’s graceful, sexually provocative paintings, and Ellen Altfest’s drawn lines of body hair on peekaboo skin. While these works might not have made the cut in 1994, they all ranked way up there today.
A version of this story originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 102.