Monday, May 21, 2007

Two More Exhibits

The Asawa exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown LA was amazing. Ruth Asawa has managed to capture light and airy shapes in looping wire that hang from the ceiling. They are beautiful to look at and leave you wondering just how she did it.

To answer that question, her daughter Aiko Cuneo gave a one-hour demonstration on Sunday afternoon. About 40 people were given the opportunity to make their very own little cup-shape sculpture out of copper wire. The technique is not really crocheting because you don't use a hook, but it is very similar. But even after the demonstration and the hands-on experience of doing it ourselves, we were still left wondering how she did it. Her shapes are much more intricate and weave in and around themselves. Some flare out like ruffles on a petticoat.

On display also were some of her drawings and paintings. Even in other mediums, she was drawn to creating flowing, curving shapes that emerge from small details like dots, blobs, or short lines. A short video showed her home filled with hanging sculptures and face masks, another of her mediums. And she did all this while raising six children! I plan to have fun with my older grandson next week looping away!

Across the courtyard from the JANM is the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA site which is currently showing the exhibition, Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution. I wandered over there after getting my fill of Asawa's artwork. This is a very different exhibition—big and sprawling, and covering many different aspects of the women's movement from the late 60s to the early 80s, and includes many videos. It would require several visits to see the whole thing. Fortunately, some of the works and some of the artists were familiar to me, I had read about them or seen them before. It is an international collection and it was interesting to see what feminists in other countries were doing.

No photography was allowed so I invite you to explore the website for an idea of what was in the exhibit. Warning! There is a lot of adult material here. This exhibit caught my emotions much more than the Asawa works did although they tended to be more in-your-face, making a statement rather than trying to uplift. Some made me laugh, and some brought tears to my eyes. And some brought back memories... Did we really blame our mothers that much? It was sad, too, in a way, because it seemed like women were still afraid to confront the world and spent a lot of time looking inward for the answers to things.

I'll just mention a few of the works that stood out for me. The first was the Mlle. Bourgeoise Noire gown made of white gloves by Lorraine O'Grady. I have a white glove story to tell, but not right now. The needlework arts were represented by several pieces but my favorite was Crocheted Environment by Faith Wilding. (Click on Selected Visual Works and then on Womb Room. This is a re-creation that looks essentially the same as Crocheted Environment.) Senga Mengudi created a very interesting work with pantyhose and sand. The works of Alice Neel stood out because they were more mainstream. My favorite was Linda Nochlin and Daisy on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. And last but not least was a section devoted to the works of Judy Chicago, including Pasadena Lifesaver Red #5. Ms. Chicago is probably most famous for her work The Dinner Party.

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