The time that womxn’s art was brushed aside as ‘vagina art’ is hopefully behind us. As is hopefully, the time of men’s expansive phallic statements through sculpture. Womxn in the 20th century who managed to get their work seen had to run extra miles to compete with men’s advantages. That the public didn’t find out about many women artists doesn’t mean they were not around, professionally practicing their craft. Do you know these femxle artists?
Read in the ‘about’ section about the use of the term womxn
Established Contemporary Womxn Artists
A different generation from the womxn in the article Remarkable womxn artists that made Modern art history, these womxn have left their mark on post-modern and contemporary art.
This German artist allows people to enter landscapes of bright color, using paint in much bigger ways than just on a canvas. Coloring sand and using industrial paint brushing techniques, she converts massive spaces into art installations where color can be experienced in an immersive way. It is easy to be conned into the idea that simpler gestures in art are easier to execute, but in reality it puts heavier weight on each decision made in the art work.
Starting out in the streets of New York City in around 1980, Jenny Holzer plastered posters on street walls with ‘Inflammatory Essays’. She had these printed on as many differently colored papers as there were available. Visual art can be much more than pictures or paintings in a museum or gallery, Jenny Holzer has demonstrated with her use of flashy text and words outdoors.
Her work deals with the information we are faced with everyday in public space, having used it as a place for art rather than reducing the outdoors to just a commercial arena. Her work as well echoes a sensitivity to human life, which I find important in art.
Having collaborated even with Louis Vuitton, Yayoi Kusama has ascended to high levels of fame and public recognition. But what is perhaps most interesting, is that she is someone who seems to really embody her art. The artist Yayoi Kusama is also the art work, as an inner state of mind seems to be projected onto the world. Her art is expressive in the truest sense of the word. Yayoi Kusama has even called it ‘art therapy’. Kusama has an art studio across from the mental health institution where she lives in Tokyo.
When talking about embodying art, the Jamaican-American Renee Cox did just that, using her body both nude and clothed to celebrate black womanhood. Not at all afraid of controversial subjects and forms, she has taken on religion, lynching, pop culture and classical art as topics in her art such as in the work Yo Mama’s Last Supper.
Renee Cox started her career as a visual artist in the 90s. The biography on her website includes not just her art work but also photos from other important moments and careers in her life. Many an artist’s website would be much more interesting in this way, art isn’t created in a void.
As the highness of 1960s original optical-art, Bridget Riley made dizzying geometric creations as well as colorful works, proving art is not only experienced by our rational mind but that it can affect us in a direct manner.
Carrie Mae Weems
Though she is a multimedia artist Carrie Mae Weems is best known for her photography work, and she has been well-awarded. While her work has dealt with the black experience in America, according to her, ‘complex, dimensional, human experience and social inclusion … is the real point.”
In her Kitchen Table Series photographs, she embodies experiences of womanhood, allowing vulnerability.
More late 20th century womxn artists: Isa Genzken, Lorna Simpson, Barbara Kruger, Nan Goldin, Marlene Dumas.
With great femxle artists rising to our consciousness more and more, the notion that ‘womxn’s art is just for womxn’ seems to further disappear into the distance behind us.
It would make sense as men’s art has never been deemed interesting only to other men. An article about 21st century womxn art is on the way.
Share your favorite 20th century womxn artists in the comments!