Art and Feminism 1969-2009
30 May to 23 August 2009

From postering activists to virtual cyber art. Forty years of art
history are on display in rebelle. This exhibition - whose name is
derived from French artist Gina Pane’s (1939-1990) installation
‘Mots de mur’ (1984-85) - focuses on works by female artists who
are or have been greatly inspired by feminism. While the topic of art
and feminism has both champions and opponents, everyone is in agreement
about one thing: feminism permanently changed the artistic landscape.
Recent exhibitions in MOCA, Los Angeles and the Brooklyn Museum in New
York, amongst other institutions, reveal a renewed interest in art with
a feminist slant. What does this theme mean for young female artists?
And how did it inspire the work of earlier generations of female
artists? The MMKA offers a major survey of works by eighty female
artists revealing similarities and differences between generations and
cultures: from American pioneers like Faith Ringgold and Eastern and
Western European pioneers like Ewa Partum, Nil Yalter, Gülsün
Karamustafa, Kirsten Justesen and Ulrike Rosenbach, to contemporary f
emale artists from Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Netherlands. The exhibition
rebelle reveals that feminist art is not about any single style or
particular subject. Topics such as desire, the body, memory,
masculinity, and social critique are explored. In addition, the
exhibition focuses on female artists who stretch the concept of art in
how they work - by collaborating with others, for example, or by using
new media.
Newspaper clippings, documentaries and photos add another layer to
rebelle. The art is placed in the context of important social
developments, the changing position of women, and ‘action’ and
intervention in the art world in particular.
In 1969, the first meeting of Women Artists in Revolution (WAR) took
place in America. WAR soon organized protests against the exclusion of
female and black artists, for instance, on the sidewalk in front of the
Whitney Museum in New York. In the Netherlands, the activist group Dolle
Mina was started in 1969. The Stichting Vrouwen in de Beeldende Kunst
(Women in the Visual Arts Organization), established in 1977, protested
on the sidewalk in front of Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum that same
year against the under-representation of female artists. The protestors
held signs with the punning text “het zit wel snor hier” - a Dutch
expression meaning all is well, but using the word “snor” which is
Dutch for moustache. In 1978 and 1979 the two-part exhibition Feminist
Art International was organized; it would stir emotions for years to
Drawing attention to the exclusion of female and non-western artists in
public collections, exhibitions, and publications is only one aspect of
the theme of art and feminism. Art itself, its societal role and
so-called objective criteria of quality, are up for discussion as well.
In the 1970s, the hierarchical distinctions between classical
disciplines like painting and sculpture and newer forms like performance
and video art were sharply defined. The same was true for the precarious
distinction between what subjects could and couldn’t be used for art.
Many female artists explored topics that had previously not been
considered appropriate for great art, such as unequal relationships
between men and women, violence and stereotypes, sexuality, identity,
and the body. It is no coincidence that the slogan “the personal is
political” has become so important. Female artists, in particular,
investigated and experimented with a visual language that they saw as
“their own” and original, and thus not influenced by
“masculine” norms and views.
The exhibition rebelle brings together work from different generations
and parts of the world. The South African Berni Searle (1964) who often
uses natural pigments and changes the color of her skin with them -
recalling the spice trade and colonization - is, for example, influenced
by Cuban American Ana Mendieta’s (1948-1985) “earth prints.” The
Guatemalan Regina Galindo (1974) belongs to a generation of performance
artists that use their bodies to question chaos and violence in their
societies. Her work recalls that of Gina Pane.
2009 is a year of looking back: rebelle offers viewers the opportunity
to look again at feminist art, freed from the cliches of pink overalls
and easy dismissals ("damn anachronism") that have clouded its
representation over the past decades. Here the way is opened to fresh
interpretations of art and its global implications.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication.