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Whitechapel Gallery presents works from the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts
Nikki S. Lee, The Hip Hop Project (1) 2001. Fujiflex Print, 79 x 104 cm. National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection, Washington, D.C. Nikki S. Lee Photo: Lee Stalsworth.

LONDON.- The Whitechapel Gallery presents photography and video works from the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., the only international museum dedicated to women artists, on display in spring 2017.

Works by seventeen contemporary artists from five continents capture women on camera in domestic spaces and expansive landscapes. By turning their camera to women, including themselves, these artists embrace the female body as a vital medium for expressing identity, for communicating individual and collective experiences, while giving life to the imagination.

Many works in the display extend the scope of 1970s feminist art, including performance and video. This display celebrates their legacy today. Moving between photography’s ability to document and tell stories, these works present women as creator and subject of their work. A number of artists in the exhibition, including Nan Goldin (b. 1953) and Daniela Rossell (b. 1973), photograph women in expansive series that appear documentary in nature.

Today, artists stage images of the figure to imaginative and poetic effect. In her ‘Projects’ series (1997–2001), Nikki S. Lee (b. 1970) adopted the dress, gestures and style of diverse American subcultures – from trailer park residents in eastern Ohio to the group of friends gathered around hip-hop duo Mobb Deep – while a friend or group member photographed her with an ordinary ‘snapshot’ camera. Traversing age, lifestyle and culture, Lee’s personas propose questions about identity and social behaviour.

The pensive moods expressed by adolescents provide fertile ground for enigmatic portraits of young women by Hellen van Meene (b. 1972). With their warm natural light and uncomplicated compositions, van Meene’s photographs appear to be spontaneous snapshots, but they are painstakingly planned and executed.

Photographs of fragmented or marked female figures testify to dark political histories in the work of duo Mwangi Hutter, Shirin Neshat (b. 1957) and Adriana Varejo (b. 1964). In Varejo’s Qualquer Coisa (1998), a painted or tattooed hand reaches through an opening in the white background. The patterning on the arm resembles decoration on historical Chinese export porcelain, which Varejo frequently incorporates into her art as an emblem of Portuguese colonial trade.

The exhibition also includes photographs by Marina Abramović, Rineke Dijkstra, Anna Gaskell, Charlotte Gyllenhammar, Candida Hfer, Icelandic Love Corporation, Kirsten Justesen, Justine Kurland, Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation, Janaina Tschpe.

This display highlights works in The National Museum of Women in the Arts collection - the only international museum dedicated to the exhibition, preservation, and acquisition of works by women artists of all nationalities and periods- as part of the Whitechapel Gallery’s programme of opening up rarely seen collections from around the world. The collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), Washington, D.C., is rich in photography, a field in which women have been pioneers since the medium’s inception in the nineteenth century.

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