THE UN-HEROIC ACT
REPRESENTATIONS OF RAPE IN CONTEMPORARY WOMEN'S ART IN THE U.S.
curated by Monika Fabijanska
September 4 -November 2, 2018
opening reception: September 12, 2018, 5:30-8:30 PM
symposium: October 3, 2018, 5-9 PM
gallery hours: Monday-Friday 10-6
Anya and Andrew Shiva Gallery
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
City University of New York (CUNY)
860 Eleventh Avenue (between 58th & 59th Street)
New York, NY 10019
tel. (212) 237-1439
This concentrated survey of works devoted to rape, by a diverse roster of women artists representing three generations, including Jenny Holzer, Suzanne Lacy, Ana Mendieta, Yoko Ono, Kara Walker, and many younger artists, aims to demonstrate that rape constitutes one of central themes in women’s art and will analyze its rich iconography in all mediums.
Generous funding for the exhibition is provided by the Affirmation Arts Fund and Sarah Peter. Public Programming Artists’ Fees are made possible by the Elizabeth A. Sackler Museum Educational Trust. The catalog is made possible, in part, by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation.
Additional support was provided by Sigmund A. Rolat, Beth Rudin DeWoody, Ruthie Rosenberg and Francis J. Greenburger. The Un-Heroic Act is a sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts.
Special thanks to Masterpiece International for critical coordination and making shipping of several works possible.
The exhibition aims to fill a gap in the history of art, where the subject of rape – as seen from women’s perspective – is a blank spot. What makes women's works radically different from those by men is the focus not on the action or drama, but on the lasting psychological devastation of the victim: her suffering, silence, shame, and loneliness. Often strikingly beautiful, they are rarely shown or their true meaning is obscured.
The Un-Heroic Act will examine remarkably varied visual languages artists employed – from figuration to abstraction and text – in order to evoke feelings as contrasting as empathy and shock, and to cover a whole variety of subjects (from fairy tales and art history, to rape as a war crime, rape epidemics on Indian reservations, rape and slavery, college rape culture, the role of social media, PTSD, etc.)
In other words, it is not an exhibition about rape, but about the iconography of rape. Recognizing breadth of material, I decided on a curatorial selection that takes into account several elements at the same time: 1/ three generations of artists; 2/ ethnic diversity (artists of American Indian, African American, and Asian origins, and Latinas); 3/ all visual mediums, from drawing to social practice; 4/ various issues that inspired artists to treat the subject, which will enable the audience to recognize and understand many aspects of rape and its lasting consequences for the victim; and finally 5/ varied visual languages artists chose to tackle with such sensitive subject.