In the closed corner of the Breese Little gallery, 31 art pieces are presented as the quintessence of women’s artistic endeavours since the 1940’s. Sharing the same space, each of the art work contribute to create harmony. The gallery pays homage to Peggy Guggenheim and the original 31 Women exhibition first presented in the 1940’s in New York where the selection was dedicated specifically to the female members of the avant-garde, known and unknown. At Breese Little, installations, sculptures, and paintings have been curated to reflect the emblematic display in the collector’s first gallery named Art of the Century.
The artists present here span from the 1940′ to present and their thematic oscillate between abstract expressionism and surrealism. The intermittent organization of the art pieces confers an original and dynamic tone to the atmosphere. Some paintings are large, other smaller, and if they are smaller, they are set-up in two rows, forming a central piece on one wall. This last arrangement entices my curiosity as I am even more enthused to discover each paintings one by one. This stimulus has a double effect on my emotions. From afar, the panel looks like a journal made of notes, sketches and colour tests. I feel like it’s always exciting to enter the intimate process of an artist’s notebook, to discover the first thoughts, ideas, and experimentation which took part in the realization of the final project. Even though this framework comes last, it is a mini collection highlighting the soft rosy colours, voluptuous shapes and the subtle touches of femininity inhabiting the rest of the space.
The exhibition originally aimed to demonstrate the presence of strong female artists in the art world. Together with Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp, Guggenheim dared to reveal art made by women in a epoch monopolized by men. This time at Breese Little, the art work displayed is not so much about making a statement, but rather using the intention of the first 31 Women exhibition as a means to observe and question. Is there an identifiable common characteristic of art made by a woman? Also, am I appreciating this display because I am woman? What if I was observing through the eyes of a man? If this was not suggested in the title, could we have guessed that all the pieces were imagined and created by women?
The answer to the two latter questions I will never know. Regarding the first dilemma, I am unsure of a universal reply but I can honestly admit that I was moved by how generous and tolerant the ensemble felt. Admittedly, I envision an art piece designed by a woman as expressive either aggressively or in a calmer, nurturing manner towards her viewers. This compassion, border line vanilla expressiveness which spoke to me while facing the pieces. Each artist in her own way imposes her signature, tries to trigger a reaction, or simply lays on a surface the symbolic nature of her thoughts.
In a time during which feminism is involved in any political and social debate, it feels unconventional to celebrate softness in a series of art pieces made by women. As much as I would like to feel from any of these pieces raw hostile energy, I cannot. This 2017 31 Women exhibition has its women speak in a non-threatening language made of leniency, good intentions and dare I say it, love.
31 women at Breese Little (2 June – 31 July 2017)