Guerrilla Girls Art Movement Essay

First gaining notoriety as a chronicler of the Postminimal and Conceptual art movements, Lucy Lippard (b. 1937) has curated and written art criticism since the early 1960s. After publishing the book-length, chronological bibliography Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object in 1973, Lippard narrowed her focus more specifically to art by women. From the Center: Feminist Essays on Women’s Art (1976) collects much of her work from the early 1970s; The Pink Glass Swan: Selected Essays on Feminist Art (1995) is a more recent anthology. She has also published monographs on specific artists, such as Judy Chicago and Eva Hesse.

In her work as a curator, Lippard has pushed the boundaries of the exhibition space, presenting innovatively irregular sculptures in Eccentric Abstraction(1966) and obviating the need for a physical space altogether in 955,000 (1970). In recent years, Lippard has continued to support feminist art and has also turned her attention to issues of climate and place.

Further Reading

Lippard, Lucy R. The Pink Glass Swan: Selected Essays on Feminist Art. New York: New Press, 1995.

———. Mixed Blessings: New Art in a Multicultural America. New York: Pantheon Books, 1990.

———. From the Center: Feminist Essays on Women's Art. New York: Dutton, 1976.

———. Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972; A Cross-Reference Book of Information on Some Esthetic Boundaries .... New York: Praeger, 1973.

Robins, Corinne, Griselda Pollock, Meaghan Morris, Freida High, and Stephanie Cash. "Rebuilding Practices of Criticism." In Feminism - Art - Theory: An Anthology 1968-2000, edited by Hilary Robinson, 198-244. Oxford, UK; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 2001.

Interview with Lucy Lippard, 1987

Part political posters, part works of fine art, the Guerrilla Girls' wheatpaste prints shook up the art world in 1980s New York and far, far beyond. Produced and distributed by an anonymous group of female artist-activists, the posters spread awareness regarding the glaring inequalities in a field traditionally thought to be liberal and forward thinking. That's right, art world, you're not as progressive as you think.

The Guerrilla Girls seamlessly combine protest and performance art, donning gorilla masks and mini skirts while exposing the extreme gender and racial biases that still plague the art world. Assuming pseudonyms of female artists like Frida Kahlo, Hannah Höch and Käthe Kollwitz, the Guerrilla Girls reintegrate past, and often under-acknowledged, female artists into art history while fighting contemporary battles. Through protests, billboards, stickers and, of course, posters, the Guerrilla Girls made the art world's ugly stats impossible to overlook.

Although the Guerrilla Girls themselves remain anonymous (though possibly not for long), their posters are instantly recognizable. "The posters were rude," wrote Susan Tallman in 1991. "They named names and they printed statistics (and almost always cited the source of those statistics at the bottom, making them difficult to dismiss). They embarrassed people. In other words, they worked."

In the vein of Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger, the Guerrilla Girls occupy the space between protest and poetry, seriousness and humor. Combining dismal facts with punchy sarcasm, the Guerrilla Girls both contribute to the constantly evolving public perception of feminism. "Humor helps when you're talking to someone who doesn't agree with you -- it's a way of communicating," the Guerrilla Girls said in an earlier interview with The Huffington Post. "When you make someone laugh they are on your side for a second."

Beyond changing the wide opinion of the art world, the Guerrilla Girls invalidate any ignorant quip that feminists can't joke.

While most posters distributed around Tribeca and Soho were destroyed, as many street-bound posters are, Gallery 98 has a rare, original series of vintage posters that were never hung. Historical relics, works of art and inspirational examples of activating change, the posters capture the history of a movement that, over the past 25 years, has transformed the art world.

See more online at Gallery 98. For more on the Guerrilla Girls, check out our interview with Kahlo and Kollwitz here.

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