Suzanne Lacy,  Three Weeks in May , 1977, paper, ink ©1977. Suzanne Lacy. Courtesy of the artist

Suzanne Lacy, Three Weeks in May, 1977, paper, ink ©1977. Suzanne Lacy. Courtesy of the artist

The Un-Heroic Act,” in its nuanced way, reflects a world in which sexual violence is simultaneously traumatic and ubiquitous, singular yet commonplace. It demonstrates what art can do so uniquely: move beyond the negotiation of facts to an embrace of deeper truths, and new conversations about them." - Jillian Steinahuer, The New York Times 



curated by Monika Fabijanska

September 4 -November 3, 2018

opening reception: September 12, 2018, 5:30-8:30 PM
artists talk & gallery tour: September 26, 2018, 6-8 PM
symposium & gallery talk: October 3, 2018, 5-9 PM watch the recording
artists talk & gallery tour: October 24, 2018, 6-8 PM

Anya and Andrew Shiva Gallery
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY
860 Eleventh Avenue (between 58th & 59th Street)
New York, NY 10019
tel. (212) 237-1439
gallery hours: Monday-Friday 10-6; Saturdays 12-6

This concentrated survey of works by a diverse roster of artists representing three generations, including Jenny Holzer, Suzanne Lacy, Ana Mendieta, Yoko Ono, Kara Walker, aims to demonstrate that rape constitutes one of central themes in women’s art and analyzes its rich iconography. The exhibition explores ways of depicting and narrating the subject in all visual art forms: drawing, painting, sculpture and installation, photography, video, film, new media, performance, and social practice.

The exhibition aims to fill a gap in the history of art, where the subject of rape has been represented by countless historical depictions by male artists. Its title refers to the phrase ‘heroic rape,’ which characterizes the male narrative of rape as a dramatic struggle culminating with romantic submission. It was coined by Susan Brownmiller in her groundbreaking book Against Our Will. Men, Women and Rape (1975). What makes works by women radically different is the focus not on the action or drama, but on the lasting psychological devastation of the victim: her suffering, shame, silence, and loneliness. Many emphasize regaining control over the victim’s sexuality and psyche and reclaiming the cultural narrative. Often strikingly beautiful, these works are rarely shown or their true meaning is obscured.

The exhibition explores various issues that inspired artists to treat the subject of rape: domestic violence, child abuse, college rape culture, rape in the military, rape as a war crime, slavery, rape epidemic on Indian reservations, women trafficking, rape in public and political discourse, the role of media, criminal trials, and visual and literary tradition, especially art history and fairy tales. The Un-Heroic Act examines remarkably varied visual languages artists employed – from figuration to abstraction to text – depending on their purpose, from shocking the audience, evoking empathy, to healing.

The Un-Heroic Act is not so much an exhibition about rape as about the iconography of rape. Recognizing breadth of material, the curatorial selection takes into account five 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) themes that inspired artists to address rape (from fairy tales to rape as a war crime); and finally, 5) varied visual languages they chose to tackle such sensitive subject (from symbolism to performative re-enactment).

If you would like to learn more, please contact me.


ARTIST TALK & GALLERY TOUR: Rape in the Social Context

Shiva Gallery (ground floor), John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 860 Eleventh Avenue (at 59th Street)

The evening starts with a gallery tour with curator Monika Fabijanska. Following Christen Clifford’s (New School) introduction to the history of rape, artist Jennifer Karady will discuss her Soldiers' Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan project - her exploration of combat trauma, military sexual trauma and her collaboration with U.S. veterans, while Ada Trillo will talk about her project How did I get here? in the context of women trafficking, rape and prostitution, and feminicidios – violent homicides of women on the U.S.-Mexican border. Moderated by professor Shonna Trinch (John Jay College).

SYMPOSIUM & GALLERY TOUR: Iconography of Rape in Contemporary Women's Art in the U.S.

Shiva Gallery (ground floor) and Moot Court (6th Floor), John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 860 Eleventh Avenue (at 59th Street)

5:00-5:30 PM –    Tour of the exhibition with curator Monika Fabijanska, Shiva Gallery, ground floor
5:40-6:00 PM –   Opening Remarks: prof. Katie Gentile (John Jay College), the Moot Court, 6th floor
6:00-6:30 PM –   Introduction to the Iconography of Rape: curator Monika Fabijanska
6:30-7:30 PM –    Panel I: The Social Dimension and Political Action: Guerrilla Girls, Bang Geul Han, and Sonya Kelliher-Combs, moderated by writer Nancy Princenthal
7:30-8:30 PM –    Panel II: The Iconography of Rape and History of Art, Literature and Film: Natalie Frank, Kathleen Gilje, and Naima Ramos-Chapman, moderated by Carmen Hermo (Brooklyn Museum)
8:30-9:00 PM –    Social time in the gallery

WED., OCTOBER 24, 6-8 PM

Shiva Gallery (ground floor), John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 860 Eleventh Avenue (at 59th Street)

A gallery tour with curator Monika Fabijanska followed by a discussion with artists Roya Amigh, Angela Fraleigh, and Lynn Hershman Leeson on what means artists employ to tell personal stories. Lynn Hershman Leeson’s Electronic Diary Part III: First Person Plural (1988, color, sound, 28 min), will be screened as part of the event.

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.
Special thanks to Masterpiece International for critical coordination and making shipping of several works possible.
Additional support was provided by Sigmund A. Rolat, Beth Rudin DeWoody, Ruthie Rosenberg and Francis J. Greenburger.
John Jay College Cultural and Visual Arts productions are made possible in part with funds allocated by NYC Council Member Helen Rosenthal and the New York City Council. 
The Un-Heroic Act is a sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts.

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Sponsorship Levels & Benefits
The Un-Heroic Act is a sponsored project of
the New York Foundation for the Arts