Girl power: SAM presents Elles Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris

Girl power: SAM presents Elles Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris
La chambre bleue, 1923, Oil on canvas, Suzanne Valadon, French, b. 1865, Bessines-sur-Gartempe, France; d. 1938, Paris, France, 35.4 x 45.7 inches (90 x 116 cm). Centre Georges Pompidou, Museé national d’art moderne, Paris

Women artists have challenged social norms, faced harsh stigmas and rejected popular cultural myths about beauty, feminism and gender. SAM will highlight the progressive attitudes of these women in a new exhibit this month.

Beginning Thursday, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) will unveil Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris, a survey of painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, video, and installation by women artists from one of Europe’s most extensive collections of modern and contemporary art.
Elles, on view at SAM Oct. 11 through Jan. 13, 2013, will present more than 125 works of art made by 75 women artists from 1909 to 2007.

Seattle is the only US venue for Elles, which includes key works by women artists from around the world including Sonia Delaunay, Frida Kahlo, Dora Maar, Diane Arbus, Marina Abramović , Louise Bourgeois, Atsuko Tanaka, Cindy Sherman, Sophie Calle, Gina Pane, Hannah Wilke, Nan Goldin, Tania Bruguera, and many more.

Other exhibitions specifically exploring female artists and feminism have been organized in recent years across the country – most notably the 2007 exhibition Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

“Elles is distinctive in its broader historical scope,” said Marisa C. Sánchez, Associate Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art at the Seattle Art Museum. “The art collection at the Centre Pompidou is uniquely rich, allowing for a survey of art made by women artists that few if any other museum collections would have the depth to organize.”

Elles adds to a developing conversation about the role and influence of women in modern and contemporary art, through works from one of the largest and most respected collections of modern and contemporary art in the world.

In keeping with its presentation at the Centre Pompidou, Elles is installed thematically and loosely chronologically. The exhibition begins with sections chronicling women’s art from the first half of the 20th-century including The Early Avant Garde, Get Your Woman On, Surrealism, Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, Bauhaus and Paris/New York.

Next, the exhibit moves into the Post World War II period, Eccentric Abstraction includes work by Abstract-Expressionist Joan Mitchell along with more abstract sculptures by artists including Lygia Clark, Louise Nevelson and Louise Bourgeois, to name a few.

The exhibition moves to more dramatic artistic experimentation – from performance and activist art, to guerilla and conceptual work and more – that began in the 1960s and 1970s and continued to be a part of women’s art throughout the 20th century and beyond. Contemporary artists, including Cindy Sherman, Marina Abramović, Lorna Simpson, and others have challenged the systems through which beauty is reinforced and fabricated.

Elles concludes with Narrations, bringing together the intimate works of contemporary artists, such as Annette Messager, Mona Hatoum, Nan Goldin, to name a few, that reject set genres and often combine sound, images and unorthodox materials to make statements about love, loss, relationships, world events, autobiography, and more.

SAM will amplify the impact of this landmark exhibition through a major reinstallation of its own collections of modern and contemporary art. Works on view will include 1920s paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe and photographs by Imogen Cunningham, a dramatic installation of Yayoi Kusama’s mixed media works, Jenny Holzer’s Inflammatory Essays, a solo show of Seattle-based artist Victoria Haven and much more. These exhibitions will be drawn from SAM’s own collection, as well as from key private collections from throughout the region and across the country.