Sunday, October 9, 2011

Appreciating Herstory

Otis College is exhibiting "Doin' It in Public" as part of the Pacific Standard Time art event.

There is currently a vast artistic curation and exhibition project underway in the Los Angeles area called Pacific Standard Time. It's premise is to celebrate and display the Los Angeles art scene from 1945 to 1980, the foundational era upon which contemporary LA art builds. Obviously, in an enormous population center like Los Angeles, there will be many narrative and historical strands that will be considered.

So I began my exploration of Pacific Standard Time with a visit to Otis College's exhibit "Doin' It in Public: Feminism and Art at the Woman's Building." It's a fascinating look at the woman's art movement and how the establishment of a feminist institution gave birth to a wide array of creative endeavors, from the aesthetic to the sexual to the political.

In terms of exhibiting original art, there wasn't much. It was more of an anthropological and historical show, which is cool with me. There were plenty of informative media displays. One could spend hours at the exhibit just looking at the videos or listening to recordings. I especially enjoyed the reconstruction of a few performance art installations.

American Dining: A Working Woman's Moment (1987/2011) by the Waitresses

For me, the documentation of the artistic-political collectives was the most compelling part of the exhibit. It seems as if this was where the creative energy of the Woman's Building in forming a community identity and fostering progressive artistic and political activities came together strongest.

That's not to say that there weren't any individual visionaries that emerged from the Woman's Building community and its larger feminist influence. In fact, the exhibit makes a point of featuring the three "founding mothers" of the movement, Judy Chicago, Arlene Raven, and Sheila Levrant de Bretteville.

Displays and videos showcasing the feminist visionaries who founded the Woman's Building.

"Virginia Woolf" from Resurrection Triptych (1973) by Judy Chicago

Another fantastic element to this show is the vast amount of ephemera on display. I especially appreciate the various magazines exhibited, such as Chrysalis or Madre Tierra publications. The small print runs and niche audience make these exceedingly rare items.

Chrysalis publications

The Woman's Building closed in 1991. I was too young to experience the heyday of classical feminism that it represented. But the spirit is conveyed with eloquence and authenticity in this exhibit.

The Woman's Building Clock.

Otis College has put up many videos on this topic for viewing. Here's one featuring the Waitresses:

This is an engaging and informative show. I'm really happy that I went to check it out. It was a great start to my experience of the Pacific Standard Time event.

"Doin' It in Public" is exhibiting at Otis College until January 28, 2012.


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