Power Players

The feminist artwork on view at the CAMH isn't as dated as it should be.

In a quote from a New York Times review of the exhibition, which originated at the Neuberger Museum of Art, co-curator Helaine Posner said, "Younger generations of women artists have been the beneficiaries of all the work that was done previously, feminism has opened up many possibilities for them, so maybe their awareness of being women doesn't have to be as central as it was a few decades ago. Feminism really has changed the world."

But the world could do with significantly more change, and so could museums. "The Deconstructive Impulse" includes some classic Guerrilla Girls posters from the '80s, including THE ADVANTAGES OF BEING A WOMAN ARTIST (1988), which features lines like, "Knowing your career might pick up when you are eighty," "Not having to be in shows with men" and "Having the opportunity to choose between career and motherhood."

As I pointed out in a blog post on Glasstire, theses posters are sadly still relevant almost 30 years later. The CAMH, where this show is presented, hasn't given a main gallery solo show to a woman in almost five years. And all of the seven solo shows in both CAMH galleries last year went to men. [If you're following the diversity stats, except for one African-American artist, all the men were white, although three were openly gay. CAMH director Bill Arning sent me a thoughtful response to the post, acknowledging the disparity and stating that scheduling issues inadvertently resulted in the CAMH's "Year of the Guy." He also told me that two main gallery solo shows by women artists were in the works, with "Jane Alexander: Surveys (from the Cape of Good Hope)" scheduled for summer.]

Laurie Simmons's staged photos done with dolls have a claustrophobic, creepy element.
Courtesy of Laurie Simmons
Laurie Simmons's staged photos done with dolls have a claustrophobic, creepy element.

Location Info


Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

5216 Montrose Blvd.
Houston, TX 77006

Category: Museums

Region: Montrose


"The Deconstructive Impulse: Women Artists Reconfigure the Signs of Power, 1973-1991"

Through April 15. The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose Boulevard, 713-284-8250.

It's telling that women get left out even by socially aware and well-intentioned institutions. The CAMH isn't pursuing some exclusionary anti-woman agenda, and, if you don't take gender into account, it has a pretty admirable record on diversity. But with women more than half the population, that this stuff simply happens, without specific exclusionary intent, is revealing of how entrenched these inequities are.

Deconstructive strategies have been around for a while, but they are still a powerful tool, in art as well as life. The kind of media analysis these artists practice has filtered into the culture at large. Last week, after all those men got together for that now-infamous birth control hearing, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer's 16-year-old grandson got that something was off. Upon seeing a photo of the gathering, he immediately remarked, "It's all dudes."

Looks like some progress has been made. Thanks, ladies.

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