“She Persists: A Century of Women Artists in New York”


“She Persists: A Century of Women Artists in New York” is an installation of works by 44 artists and collectives in the public spaces of Gracie Mansion. Curated by Jessica Bell Brown, it opened on January 22 and will be on view for the entire year. Two Caribbean-related artists mentioned in the article “On Display at the People’s House: A Century of Persistence” (Jillian Steinhauer, The New York Times) are Cuban-American Carmen Herrera and Elizabeth Colomba, of Martinican descent.

[. . .] The occasion is “She Persists: A Century of Women Artists in New York,” an installation of works by 44 artists and collectives in the public spaces of Gracie Mansion. The show is the largest one to be mounted there and the first to focus exclusively on female and women-identified creators, all of whom have significant connections to New York City. Some are young — like Jordan Casteel, born in 1989, and Kaveri Raina, born in 1990; three are centenarians — Toko Shinoda, born in 1913, Carmen Herrera, born in 1915, and Florence Knoll, born in 1917; and many are no longer living. The subtitle refers to the period from 1919, the year the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote, was sent to the states for ratification, to today.

“This exhibit is really important at this time, given the #MeToo movement, the centennial anniversary of the suffrage movement, the historic number of women running for office,” the city’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, said in an interview at the Mansion. “And of course, the personal is the political. What I believe is being exercised in my home as well as out there in the world.” [. . .]


The goal of “She Persists,” which will remain on view for a year, bringing with it specialized public tours and a middle-school curriculum, is “to fix that and show women who’ve been unheralded, unseen,” she said.

To curate the installation, the Gracie Mansion Conservancy brought in Jessica Bell Brown, an art historian and Ph.D. candidate at Princeton, who said she was thinking, from the outset, about the question, “How does gender impact our understanding of the world and the ways we bring bias into how we even imagine what an exhibition could look like?” [. . .]

Inside, the mansion presents further complications: brightly colored rooms filled with period furniture, ornate light fixtures and other flourishes, all of which threaten to upstage any art that goes on the walls. Yet Ms. Brown said that she found the uniqueness of the space liberating, in a way. “Because this isn’t a museum, I felt like I had a lot more freedom to play with art history.” Rather than attempting to curate a corrective or definitive exhibition of 100 years of women’s art, she decided to work thematically, concentrating on four areas: “contending with history,” “body as battleground,” “picturing people” and “expanding abstraction.” Visual connections emerge in different rooms.

In the parlor, for example, the austere white zigzag in Carmen Herrera’s 1987 painting “Yesterday” echoes the more lyrical waves of Lee Krasner’s 1976 screen print “Free Space.” That room also contains Faith Ringgold’s 1988 story quilt “Tar Beach #2,” which depicts the young Cassie Louise Lightfoot, who dreams of flying over the George Washington Bridge. An angular, modernist photograph of the bridge taken by Berenice Abbott in 1936 hangs nearby. [. . .]

For full article, see https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/20/arts/design/art-by-women-at-gracie-mansion.html

See more on Carmen Herrera at http://www.artnet.com/artists/carmen-herrera/

See Elizabeth Colomba’s work at https://www.elizabeth-colomba.com/

[Photos by Tawni Bannister for The New York Times: First, Carmen Herrera, “Yesterday” (1987.) Second, First Lady Chirlane McCray with Elizabeth Colomba’s “Haven” (2015) at Gracie Mansion.]

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