Los Angeles

Connie Hatch

Roy Boyd Gallery

Connie Hatch’s installation, After the Fact . . . Some Women, employs photos and text to address the subject of injustice to women. Hatch pairs sobering information about the lives, travails, and demises of “disappeared” women with photos of them culled from various sources. The photographs are enlarged black and white positive transparencies sandwiched between clear sheets of acrylite. The 12 photos in the show’s centerpiece, Some Women . . . Forced to Disappear, 1989, are mounted on two walls at 45-degree angles. Presented in a dimmed room and individually spotlit, the panels cast shadowy images of their subjects’ faces on the wall. The installation is part somber memorial, part martyr’s roll call. Some of the pictured women are unsung and obscure, others are oft-cited female icons, such as Marilyn Monroe, Rosa Luxemburg, and Anne Frank. Typed and copied sheets providing biographical information on these women are posted nearby.

Occupying the same reverently dimmed room was Homes I Will Never See Again, 1989. This work invited comparison to, and somewhat trivialized the impact of, the other installation here. It includes a list of addresses of homes Hatch presumably occupied and later moved out of. Six panels, comparable in size to those in Some Women . . . , jut out from the wall in the same way, but consist of family-snapshot-type pictures of houses. On the floor in front of these panels lay six black rubber welcome mats, each with one of the words from the piece’s title spelled out on it in white letters. By revealing part of her history, perhaps Hatch was attempting to make some personal identification with the women whose photos graced the opposite walls, or to compare types of loss. If so, this comparison is problematic. Because the pain of relocating pales so utterly in comparison with Anne Frank’s fate, or the fate of the pregnant Argentinian woman who was dragged off to prison and most likely killed, or any of the harrowing fates related in this show, one could only gape in disbelief and wish that such an inappropriate juxtaposition had not been made.

1898–1937? 1898?–1937, 1989, was the most visually striking piece in the show. Two full-length photographic portraits on panels the size of doors (one of Bessie Smith, the other of Amelia Earhart) are suspended from the ceiling via steel cables. Smith, a beautiful, substantial black woman, wears an elaborate beaded dress in her portrait; Earhart, willowy, white, and androgynous-looking, is dressed in aviation togs. Their panels are hung in such a way that they almost enclose a corner of the room. By stepping behind them, one learns, for instance (via “Briefing/ Legend” sheets affixed to the wall), that Smith, critically injured in an auto accident, was denied admission to the first hospital she was taken to because she was black, and she died en route to another. Facts like this were at the heart of this show’s most powerful effects. The work’s title—which calls into question the year of birth of one woman, the year of death of the other—reinforces the sense of both subjects’ ephemeral place in history.

Two wall/text works from the “History on Ice (Distortion)” series, 1989, contain various quotations suggesting that women are incapable artists, inferior beings, and that they would do best to serve their men. Each misogynistic snippet is encased in a rectangular glob of wavery glass that looks like a chunk of ice. The glass distorts the text, making it difficult, but not impossible, to read. Hatch’s point, that throughout history distortions about women’s true “natures” have had a warping and ruinous effect on their lives, is certainly well-taken. However, this approach is also self-limiting, falling somewhat short of dealing with the complexities of the history of sexism in art and elsewhere. It clings to the first and most obvious reaction to these quotes, earning a squint and a nod from viewers, but allowing, practically obliging them to walk away at that point. This show’s aim, to bring aspects of the abuse of women to light, is commendable. The material might have benefited from a less literal approach.

Amy Gerstler