Organized by Mills College Art Museum
Halley K. Harrisburg, Curator
The paintings, sculptures and drawings that compose True Grit: Seven Female Visionaries Before Feminism were made between 1949 and 1976 by seven female artists, all of whom were making radical art before the term “feminism” had even entered the cultural lexicon. To this day, their individual works when seen outside of a group context exude a disciplined purity and aesthetic toughness; when viewed collectively, this compilation of work assumes a remarkable historical and cultural importance. Taken, with a degree of gleeful irony, from the title of a 1969 John Wayne movie, True Grit surveys the varied, independent oeuvres of these seven artists. These women seized on their right to make art, persevered in their field, and in the process influenced and inspired a new generation of artists.
True Grit places in a renewed context the work of this diverse group: Lee Bontecou, an assemblage artist of striking originality; Louise Bourgeois, the pre-eminent post-WWII sculptor who continues to startle and invent; Jay DeFeo, who, working in a broad range of media, explored provocative organic forms; Claire Falkenstein, a crafter of “structural” objects which combined her interests in molecular biology and topology; Nancy Grossman, a collagist known for her leather-covered sculptures and mixed-media totems; Louise Nevelson, whose trademark painted-black wooden constructions suggest existential puzzles; and Nancy Spero, a painter of emotionally-charged, politically-themed tableaus featuring the human figure.
The exhibition assumes nothing about these artists according to their gender. Their idiomatic eccentricities make any single classification of the seven artists difficult and imperfect. It is perhaps this very “ungroupability” that informs the character of the ensemble. What can be said with assurance, however, is that these seven visionaries are among the best of their generation and have created bodies of work that are deep, absorbing, engaging, and lasting.
NUMBER OF WORKS: 30
TOUR DATES: April 2001 - April 2004