Critics’ Picks

Guerrilla Girls, Do Women Have to be Naked to Get Into the Met. Museum?, 1989-2012, digital print on fabric, 8 x 18’.

Fairfield

Guerrilla Girls

Walsh Art Gallery
200 Barlow Road Quick Center for the Arts
September 4–November 14

An unfortunate issue facing feminist artists and collectives that began their practices in the 1970s and ’80s is that the historical specificity of their political interventions has been lost in a haze of totalizing readings by scholars and critics. The Guerrilla Girls, for instance, have often been simply categorized as social commentators rather than as artists examining the intersection of aesthetics, gender, and history. Now in their thirtieth year, the group continues to fight in a characteristically biting fashion for their well-deserved place in the canon while other figureheads of institutional critique enjoy more visible support.

Featuring a tightly curated selection of posters, large billboards reprinted at their original scale, and picket signs from the collective’s international activities—which range from lectures to workshops to protests—this retrospective offers much more than mere documentation of a formerly radical movement. The iconic Do Women Have to be Naked to Get Into the Met. Museum, 1989–2012, reflects a host of art-world conundrums that persist to this day, including social prejudice affecting art-historical pedagogy. Ingres’s infamous Grande Odalisque is pictured front and center—yet, now donning a gorilla mask, she is no longer in service to a patriarchal imagination but rather asserts her autonomy and frustrates a male-dominated, imperialist lineage of artistic value. Such appropriative tactics evoke the lingering, tangled layers of representational modes that support prevailing power narratives. The works gathered here make a forceful case for the continued relevance of the Guerrilla Girls because of their construction of a multivalent critique that strikes ferociously at pervasive sexism.