Art, Books, Feminist

ArtReview: Art and Feminism (Phaidon)

It is a very complete book about the artistic expression of feminist ideas. It’s a collection of works created by many artists such as Louise Bourgeois or Judy Chicago. I loved this book, I had to read it to write an article on the aesthetics of feminist art for my master’s degree.

The book brings close to us the thoughts of women artists and how they use their art as activism. It shows us that the feminist movement put focus not only to the role of sexuality in artistic creation, but in others as age, social class and race. And how some artists have rallied the feminist cause and proposed new ways of looking the object of art and its subject. New ways of perception in public and private spheres.

artfeminism phaidon

The editor is Helena Reckitt, a critic and curator based in Canada (Toronto) and with a long-standing critical research interest in feminist art and theory. The survey is by Peggy Phelan, who is one of the best-known contemporary feminist theorists and has written on contemporary visual arts and performance from a feminist psychoanalytic perspective.

This book helps to understand what the artistic activism was and its revindications, as well as what the artists expected to achieve with it. The importance of the female body as a toll. In this part we can see how the artists used their bodies as primary material to build something new, to create art.

And how some of them searched for a feminine genealogy. The best example of this is The Dinner Party of Judy Chicago. And this need for a feminine genealogy is something that we can find in literature too, Virginia Woolf talked about it in her A Room of one’s own.

In 70’s the female body as a toll is still important to many feminist artists, however it begins to appear some artists that have interest in the Marxist theories and the psychoanalysis. They started to unify these theories with her art and as results we can find works as Post-Partum document by American artist Mary Kelly or the work of British filmmaker Laura Mulvey, especially in the film Riddles of the Sphinx.

In 80’s appears a generation of Afro descendants’ artists in USA and UK. They explore the encounter between racial and sexual identity with the legacy left by colonialism, drawing attention to the fact that the feminist movement was formed mostly by white women. A good example of this is the work Mirror, Mirror by Carrie Mae Weems.

Also, we can find in the book references to the Guerrilla Girls and many other things until the change of millennium.

I highly recommend it!