Ruth Iskin was on the scene in Los Angeles, where a strong women's movement also emerged. The museums and art galleries were similarly dismissive of women artists and their work. Iskin chronicles some of the little-known feminist activism of the Los Angeles council of Women artists that led to the monumental 1976 exhibition, Women artists: 1550-1950. In their report documenting the Los Angeles county Museum's "longstanding record of discrimination," LACWA counted works on the walls and in exhibition catalogues. They found that while women made up more than half the population, representation of women artists in LACMA's group shows in the previous decade amounted to four percent. Iskin also offers details about Womanspace, an early project that attracted thousands of members. Besides providing gallery space for exhibitions, Womanspace sponsored a diverse array of programs. Iskin also updates the history of exhibitions on women artists. these two articles are welcome contributions to the literature on the evolution of the feminist movement on both coasts.
Dorothy Gillespie (1920-2012) arrived in new York city in the 1940s to become a working artist and became closely involved with feminists during the 1970s, particularly with the Women's Interart Center. Steve Arbury's retrospective view of Gillespie's artistic development focuses on her public art. From an early age she had wanted to work on a large scale, and it was in these works that she found great satisfaction. Her exuberant style lent itself to a variety of venues. Our cover, for example, is a photomontage of Summerscape, Gillespie's 1982 set design for the Cleveland Ballet--evidence of the winning interaction of dancers with dynamic and colorful sculptures that complemented their performance. Gillespie's public projects include permanent installations and some temporary projects of great interest. In 2003, for example, Gillespie created what she considered her "crowning achievement" for Rockefeller center in Manhattan: "a kaleidoscopic winter garden of 185 colorful forms placed high and low along the entrance walkway between Fifth avenue and the famous plaza."
Renowned scholar Anna Chave writes about Helen Frankenthaler in a presentation that was originally included in a symposium on the artist at new York university. Chave argues that Frankenthaler's special circumstances and comfortable lifestyle preordained success. Despite being hailed by the influential critic clement Greenberg as a "founding mother" of color-field painting following the success of her Mountains and Sea in 1952, Frankenthaler "began to look somewhat marginal within this milieu," even though, in Chave's estimation, "she produced during the 1960s the best work of her career ..."
The abstract painter Joan Thorne is discussed by Vittorio Colaizzi, who details the history of abstraction in the post-minimalist period. By including comparative examples of both female and male artists exploring abstraction, he offers a strong assessment of Thorne's signature style. "Rather than shaping, cutting, and connecting a charged pictorial space, Thorne's contorted linear trails pile upon one another, thus making intentionality ... the subject of their pictorial action." according to Colaizzi, "Thorne plays intention upon non-intention by picturing a seemingly un-willed disarray."
As usual, our Book Review editor, Ute Tellini, has assembled an excellent team of reviewers for a list of books spanning a broad range of times and places. Marjorie Och reviews a volume that examines especially the later work of Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653), placing her accomplishments within the literary and cultural milieus of Rome and Naples, where she lived and worked, and for the Spanish court, where she found important patrons. Catherine Puglisi reviews a book on Gentileschi's Bolognese near-contemporary, the painter Elisabetta Sirani 1638-65), which includes a catalogue raisonne collecting the 150 or so paintings she completed in her short lifetime.
Some exhibition catalogues present new takes on well-known artists such as Frida Kahlo--her and Diego Rivera's consequential period spent in Detroit, and the garden at her Blue house in Coyoacan, Mexico, reviewed by Ellen G. Landau. a catalogue of works by Sophie Taueber-Arp shows the many sides of this multi-disciplinary artist--besides the textiles for which she is well-known, she had an architectural practice, made innovations in modern dance, and more, as reviewed by Anja Baumhoff. Lauren Jimerson discusses catalogue essays on the Fauve-like nudes of the French painter Emilie Charmy. Colombian artist Doris Salcedo's installations responding to acts of political violence are featured in a catalogue of the artist's first U.S. retrospective exhibition, reviewed here by Aliza Edelman.
Other not-to-be-missed books reviewed are the remarkable volume of Linda Nochlin's collected essays on women artists; a beautifully illustrated study of the Moroccan-born Lalla Essaydi's photographic works; two books on "artistic meditations" on the contemporary home; an examination of the significance of the distinctive geometric patterns on mud cloth made by the Bamana women of Mali; a beautiful catalogue raisonne of works by the British sculptor Elisabeth Frink; and a fascinating study of women and public space in visual culture over the nineteenth century in Europe and beyond.
As always, we thank Rutgers university and Old city publishing for their ongoing support. We also extend our appreciation to our excellent authors and reviewers for their valued contributions as WAJ enters its thirty-seventh year of publishing on women artists and feminist topics.
Joan Marter and Margaret Barlow, Editors, Woman's Art Journal