Saturday, January 22, 2011

Nancy Spero 13 Octobre 2010- 10 Janvier 2011, Centre Pompidou, Paris. by craniv boyd

Nancy Spero 13 Octobre 2010- 10 Janvier 2011, Centre Pompidou, Paris. by craniv boyd


As a new Yorker there is something thrilling about coming to Paris and seeing the art work of a late New York based artist who is fairly under exposed at the institutional level in New York proper. Likewise it is special when the New York based artist exposed at the National Museum for Modern art in Paris is a woman, active for decades and critical radical and activist without standing on a soapbox so to speak while creating art work.


Nancy Spero reads the large banner hanging on the side of Renzo Piano's iconic playful postmodern structure without skin. She is the artist with the show and it is a privilege to see it. On the floor of the permanent collection of the Centre Pompidou, in the galleries for graphic arts there is a thorough exposition of a life committed to art. Visitors are welcomed to the show of in a hall of photographs, snapshots and portraits of Spero as a young artist, a large photograph of a young intellectual of the beatnik generation complete with smoldering cigarette in hand, onwards to views of the artists studio, work family photos, photos of the artist protesting sexist exhibition policies at the MoMA in NYC ec cetera a rich life with art shown in chronological order, this in itself I can imagine is highly inspiring for people, to see how to live a happy fulfilling life as an artist and have a husband and children, without making a fuss about it. 


Onwards towards the work, displayed in rooms that progress chronologically from work that is anti American aggression, in protest of the Vietnam War. Next a synthesis of the "Old" and "New" worlds in the Codex Artaud, a codex being a form of illuminated manuscript favored by pre Columbian Central American civilizations, and French actor and author of a theory of the abject Anton Artaud. Words like F*?!, or S*?!, appear in this series yes it is shocking, despite that these vulgarities are part of a larger investigation about base aspects of human nature.


What painter James Rosenqvist attempted to express with pop art means in his large format F1-11 about 60's America an the fighter jets the defense industrial complex produced, an eclectic pop imagist allegory of post War American life Spero does on with a smaller format and broader leans. Nancy Spero's magnum opus, Azur (cri du coeur), traces representations of women in the arts from the start of mankind to the postmodern capitalist condition. It is as if the artworks of humans were pluralistic open and accessible to all in a sort of grand relay race throughout the ages. Seeing the varied forms of representation of women by our ancestors presented in tandem with our relatively limited contemporary feminine iconography one can wonder are we truly the society and system who is tolerant of feminism? If we are so tolerant of women and their abilities why elect to represent them as merely exotic dancers or bound victims as Spero presents them in Azur at the end of the 39-paneled frieze on paper. Why not represent feminine nature as something to be feared like people of the Indus valley did with their Goddess Kali who also makes a cameo in Azur sometime in the middle of the work.


Seeing this epic work Azur is special, it is inclusive and in its inclusion of the voices of our own human collective history as seen in crafted objects, the visual selected dialogue between the ways women are depicted both provokes accepted forms and inspires new ways to show femininity. by craniv boyd

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