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Protesting Inequalities in the Art World

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When a group of women artists first put on gorilla masks to protest gender and racial inequalities in the art world, their use of humor on advertising handouts and posters called attention to the paucity of works by female artists in gallery and museum exhibitions.

Posters on display as part of the Guerrilla Girls exhibition at the Benton Museum. (Amy Jorgensen/UConn Photo)

Posters on display as part of the Guerrilla Girls exhibition at the Benton Museum. (Amy Jorgensen/UConn Photo)

Taking the names of dead women artists in order to be anonymous, and wearing the masks to protect themselves against possible retaliation, they called themselves the Guerrilla Girls. More than three decades later, they say there is still work to be done. “When we started in 1985, you could hear curators and gallery people saying that women and artists of color were not making art that is part of the contemporary dialogue,” says Frida Kahlo, one of the founders of Guerilla Girls. “No one would say that now.” Kahlo’s namesake is the 20th century surrealist Mexican painter known for her self-portraits and as the subject of the 2002 Salma Hayek film “Frida.”Thirty-nine off-beat “guerrilla-advertising” posters, advertising, and other works are part of the “Guerrilla Girls: Art, Activism, and the ‘F’ Word” in the center gallery of the William Benton Museum of Art through May 22. The exhibition is drawn from the 89-pieceGuerrilla Girls Portfolio Compleat (1985-2012) recently acquired by the museum.

Among the works in the exhibition is a 1989 billboard poster that addressed concerns at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The poster depicts a nude woman wearing a gorilla mask lying on a couch with a headline asking: “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum? Less than 5 percent of the artists in the Modern Art sections are women, but 85 percent of the nudes are female.”

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“Guerrilla Girls: Art, Activism, and the ‘F’ Word” continues through May 22 at the William Benton Museum of Art, 245 Glenbrook Road, Storrs. For more information, go to the Benton Museum’s website.

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