Women Take the Reins in 'NO MAN'S LAND'
The substance and weight of ‘NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection’ are not lost on the scaled down version of the larger exhibition, first shown during Art Basel: Miami Beach in 2015. The iteration of the exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts features 59 works by 37 contemporary women artists from five continents. Focused on the themes of the body and process the exhibition gives reverence to women artists, so often under represented in the contemporary art space. Artists such as Anicka Yi, Mickalene Thomas, Nina Chanel Abney, Solange Pessoa, Wangechi Mutu, Hayv Kahraman, and Shinique Smith explore these complicated themes through painting and sculpture. The greatness of the exhibition comes from not simply from female subjectivity but from the quality of the work that is on view, much of which is created by women of color.
In the first room of the exhibition museum goers are met by Brazilian artist Solange Pessoa’s, Hammock, an installation made of earth-covered bags, resembling bodily organs, suspended from the wall like a hammock. Though not explicitly depicting the female form in its entirety, Pessoa emphasizes the persistent weight of womanhood in contemporary society.
As the exhibition continues examples of the female body become more explicit with varied meanings, from Jennifer Rubell’s humorous and interactive “nutcracker” sculpture Lysa III to Isa Genzken’s sculpture, Shauspieler, referencing plastic surgery and the pressures women face as they age. The most compelling example of the female nude figure in the exhibition comes from Mickalene Thomas. Whatever You Want, features Maya, Thomas’ first muse. The artist references notions of painting the female figure by “great” white male artists such as Manet and turns them on their heads. Here, Maya, controls the gaze of viewer and celebrates her own beauty.
‘NO MAN’S LAND’ closed on January 8, 2017, but remains a testament to the Rubell family’s commitment to collecting a diverse selection of art made by women. If you missed the show, do not fret. The National Museum of Women in the Arts, the only museum of its kind in the world, features many examples of women modern and contemporary artists. The collection features works by Chakaia Booker, Faith Ringgold, Kimsooja, Alison Saar, Alma Thomas, Frida Kahlo, and Amy Sherald.