Women to the Fore

September 18, 2020–January 3, 2021

True to its title, Women to the Fore gives voice and space to more than forty female-identifying artists, spanning one hundred and fifty years.

This exhibition—drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection as well as loans from regional artists, galleries, and collectors—focuses on the rich diversity and range of expression in a group of artists working in paintings and drawings, prints and photographs, collage and sculpture. While some artists are internationally recognized, others are overdue to be better known; still others are now emerging. The installation will gather and compare works from different eras and media and will include interpretation that stems from the artists’ own words.

In 2020, many people and institutions are taking stock of the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, what it won and where it failed to achieve voting rights for American women. Women are still fighting for freedom, and art can be a powerful tool to help us see the complexity of their lives and ideas. Female-identifying artists have distinguished themselves by working persistently within an oppressive patriarchal system and by rebelling against this status quo. With each succeeding generation, they have created work that raises awareness of interdependent systems of discrimination and how to make productive change. Today, feminist art history has expanded to embrace intersectionality: the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender.

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While no one exhibition can cover such a multifaceted story, the artists in Women to the Fore challenge the dominant textbook history of American art and expand our definition of feminist art history by advocating for diversity, inclusion, and gender equity in museums, the art world, and beyond. In the nineteenth century, still life was one of the only subjects considered “appropriate” for women. Since then, artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Ebony Bolt, and Joséphine Douet have expanded the boundaries of that genre to become shepherds and observers of nature, urban environs, and cycles of life. Redefining women’s roles as nurturers or caregivers motivates Vinnie Bagwell, Tuesday Smillie, and Jessica Spence, who look to their own experiences to express a broad range of personal connections. A number of artists champion women as agents of exploration into the interrelation of sex, race, and ethnicity in modern society, including Judy Chicago, Judy Giera, Marisol, and Shanequa Benitez. Reflection upon homelands and movement across borders is a major concern of Seongmin Ahn, Julia Santos Solomon, and Ola Rondiak. Across the spectrum of these themes, in many cases, the art is political, in ways both overt and subversive.

Artists on view from the collection include Berenice Abbott, Denise Allen, Hannelore Baron, Isabel Bishop, Harriet Blackstone, Ebony Bolt, Judy Chicago, Rose Clark, Joséphine Douet, Camille Eskell, Audrey Flack, Nancy Graves, Susan Hall, Susan Leopold, Evelyn Longman, Marisol, Ann McCoy, Barbara Morgan, Louise Nevelson, Georgia O’Keeffe, Merle Perlmutter, Ellen Robbins, Yvonne Thomas, and Susan Wides. Artists represented by loans to the exhibition are Seongmin Ahn, Vinnie Bagwell, Shanequa Benitez, Mary Cassatt, Mary Frank, Mary Frey, Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, Judy Giera, Amaryllis De Jesus Moleski, Ola Rondiak, Helen Searle, Tuesday Smillie, Julia Santos Solomon, Jessica Spence, Lilly Martin Spencer, Bessie Potter Vonnoh, Elizabeth Flint Wade, and Anna Walinska.

To welcome visitors to the gallery, the Museum commissioned Yonkers-based artists Nancy Mendez, Patricia Santos, and Katori Walker, known for their street murals throughout the city, to paint a collaborative mural inspired by their own public art practice and expression of identity. During the course of the exhibition, the Museum looks forward to providing opportunities in the galleries and online to welcome public participation and to ensure that many perspectives are presented for consideration.

The exhibition is co-curated by Laura Vookles, Chair, Hudson River Museum Curatorial Department, and Victoria McKenna-Ratjen, Curatorial Assistant.

Julia Santos Solomon (American, b. Dominican Republic, 1956). Caribbean Thoughts Mashup, 2019. Digital print on metal. Courtesy of the artist.