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Groundbreaking exhibition features more than 260 works by more than 120 artists from 15 countries
Regina Silveira (born Brazil, 1939). Biscoito arte (Art cookie), 1976. One of two chromogenic prints (diptych), 29 1/2 × 39 in. (74.9 × 99.1 cm) (this image); 69 11/16 × 39 3/4 in. (177 × 101 cm) overall. Collection of Fernanda Feitosa and Heitor Martins. © Regina Silveira.

BROOKLYN, NY.- The Brooklyn Museum presents Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985, the first comprehensive exhibition to explore the pioneering artistic practices of Latin American and Latina women artists during a tumultuous and transformational period in the history of the Americas and the development of contemporary art.

Radical Women includes more than 260 works—including photography, video, and other experimental mediums, as well as paintings, sculpture, and prints—by more than 120 artists working in 15 countries. The Brooklyn Museum is the only East Coast venue of this critically acclaimed exhibition organized by the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. The exhibition remains on view through July 22, 2018.

The artists included range from emblematic figures to less familiar names. Since the 1990s Latin American and Latina women artists such as Beatriz González, Anna Maria Maiolino, Ana Mendieta, Lygia Pape, and Cecilia Vicuña have been widely recognized for their originality and the experimental nature of their work, and they are considered to be among the most influential artists of the twentieth century. However, many other Latin American women and Latina artists are deserving of greater recognition, given their significant contributions. Puerto Rico–based Cuban artist Zilia Sánchez, for example, imbued the formal language of geometric abstraction with a sense of eroticism in the 1960s, and Los Angeles–based Chicana activist artist Judith F. Baca created vital mural paintings. Equally important are pioneering video artists such as Letícia Parente (Brazil), Narcisa Hirsch (Argentina), and Pola Weiss (Mexico), whose works employ the female body to symbolize both the restrictions imposed on women and the freedom of expression coveted by citizens across Latin America in the mid-1970s. Expanding upon the exhibition to address the Latinx communities of the New York audience, the Brooklyn Museum presentation also includes Nuyorican portraits by New York– born, Puerto Rican photographer Sophie Rivera, as well as work from Chicana graphic arts pioneer Ester Hernandez, Cuban filmmaker Sara Gomez, and AfroLatina activist and artist Marta Moreno Vega.

Addressing an art-historical vacuum, one that has largely excluded Latin American and U.S.-based Latina women artists from the record, Radical Women highlights work created during a period of profound political and social turmoil in many Latin American countries in the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s, a period that saw the emergence of multiple dictatorships as well as significant and often subversive interventions by the government of the United States. The artworks in Radical Women can be viewed as heroic acts giving voice to generations of women across Latin America and the United States. Proposing both aesthetic and political radicality, the work in the exhibition foregrounds feminist concerns such as bodily autonomy, oppressive social norms, gendered violence, and the environment.

Radical Women centers on the notion of the political body. The artists represented embarked on radical and experimental artistic investigations beginning in the early 1960s, forging new paths in photography, performance, video, and conceptual art. They generated a line of inquiry focused on the politicization of the female body and sought to break free from an atmosphere of political and social repression that subjugated women. In their work, the representation of the female body became a starting point for questioning the established art-historical canon, as well as a means of denouncing social, cultural, and political acts of violence and oppression. Some artists employed the body as both an actual medium and metaphorically, using a new iconography to explore both the personal and the political. The exhibition argues that many underrecognized artists have helped to shape a more complex, expanded, and diverse field of conceptual, video, performance, and installation art in Latin America and the United States.

“Poetic and political, topics explored in the exhibition include self-portraiture, body landscape, and feminisms,” explained Andrea Giunta, co-curator of the exhibition at the Hammer Museum. “These themes draw together the artworks across national and geographic boundaries, making the case for parallel practices by artists often working in very different cultural conditions.”

Catherine Morris, Sackler Senior Curator for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, and cocurator of the Brooklyn presentation, added, “The exhibition is a remarkable scholarly achievement, expanding the canon and complicating known narratives of conceptual art and radical art-making, while building on the legacy of important and ambitious exhibitions at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, including We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85, Materializing “Six Years”: Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art, and Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958–1968.”

Radical Women also examines the artists’ various approaches to feminism in relation to their geographic context and their specific political and social backgrounds. In Latin America, the history of feminist militancy was not widely reflected in the arts, with the exception of Mexico and some isolated cases in the 1970s and 1980s, and in many countries feminism was not a defined movement. In the United States, Latina and Chicana artists challenged patriarchal politics that were as oppressive as those faced by their counterparts in Latin America, and many participated in the civil rights, antiwar, gay rights, disability, and feminist movements, though often from a different perspective and, at times, in opposition to mainstream feminism.

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