NO MAN’S LAND: Unexpected Materials

Contemporary large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids are on view in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. The exhibition imagines a visual conversation between 37 women artists from 15 countries exploring images of the female body and the physical process of making. Helen Marten and Mary Weatherford evoke meaning by juxtaposing unexpected mediums.

What’s On View?

Helen Marten’s Under blossom: B. uses frenzy, 2014

“A lot of people look at my work and think it’s an amalgam of junk, like a granny’s attic,” says Helen Marten (b. 1985, Macclesfield, England). Yet, “All of this stuff is murderously plotted.”

Helen Marten, Under blossom: B. uses frenzy, 2014; Screen-printed suede, leather, waxed cotton, pressed Formica, ash, cherry, walnut, welded galvanized steel, glazed ceramic, strings, cast bronze and aluminum, and colored pencil on paper under resin; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Helen Marten, Under blossom: B. uses frenzy, 2014; Screen-printed suede, leather, waxed cotton, pressed Formica, ash, cherry, walnut, welded galvanized steel, glazed ceramic, strings, cast bronze and aluminum, and colored pencil on paper under resin; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Marten’s Under blossom: B. uses frenzy includes a list of materials typical of her meticulously handcrafted assemblages: screen-printed suede, leather and waxed cotton, pressed Formica, ash, cherry, walnut, welded galvanized steel, glazed ceramic, strings, cast bronze and aluminum, and colored pencil on paper under resin.

In the center of this work, Marten printed an image of a skull reliquary layered with drawings of hands in positions suggestive of sign language, mudras, and massage. It also incorporates ceramic vessels and cast metal dishes resembling bird bottles and transmitters. Her pictorial puzzles invite the viewer to tease out new and multiple meanings, sparking associations of communication, connection, and discovery.

Mary Weatherford’s past Sunset, 2015

In contrast to Helen Marten’s enigmatic works made of disparate elements, Mary Weatherford (b. 1963, Ojai, California) works with a sparer set of materials—paint and often neon—to create pieces that reference her experiences.

Mary Weatherford, past Sunset, 2015; Flashe and neon on linen; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Mary Weatherford, past Sunset, 2015; Flashe and neon on linen; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Weatherford’s large-scale works are abstracted depictions of places she has seen. past Sunset subtly references landscapes near New York City. She painted with large brushes and sponges to achieve the canvas’s saturated blue-blacks and soft oranges, suggesting a late evening atmosphere.

Describing her use of neon, Weatherford says, “I know if I’m going to put a light on it; I paint it to have something missing . . . I know that the painting is empty and lacking enough that it’s going to need another element. Sometimes I get going, and I think, ‘Wow, that is a painting, and it doesn’t need anything else.’”

Visit the museum and explore NO MAN’S LAND, on view through January 8, 2017.

—Elizabeth Lynch is the editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.