First Looks: NO MAN’S LAND

NMWA’s new contemporary exhibition NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection opened with a bang. On Thursday, September 29, NMWA members enjoyed a first look at the exhibition during Member Preview Day and the public celebrated with a special evening reception.

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Attendees study work by Kerstin Brätsch (left) and Karin Davie (right); Photo: Kevin Allen

NMWA presents a new vision of the exhibition, which opened in December 2015 at the Rubell Family Collection (RFC)’s 45,000-square-foot Miami facility. The new presentation features paintings and sculptures by 37 artists from 15 countries. Stemming from the 1970s feminist art movement, NO MAN’S LAND plays with images of the female body and the process of making, subverting the convention of handcraft as “women’s work” into a beautiful, visual conversation reclaiming the female form.

Rubell Family Collection Director Juan Roselione-Valadez

Rubell Family Collection Director Juan Roselione-Valadez leading a tour during the opening reception; Photo: Kevin Allen

The event brightened a rainy Thursday for all the attendees. Members gained early access to the exhibition through tours led by knowledgeable and engaging curatorial and education staff. Each thematic tour focused on different aspects of the collection. One member described the day as “an excellent experience that highlighted talented women and prompted important conversation.” During the day members received perks at the Mezzanine Café and in the Museum Shop, featuring the NO MAN’S LAND catalogue and the gag nutcracker that inspired artist Jennifer Rubell’s attention-grabbing Lysa III.

NMWA’s Great Hall: Photo: Kevin Allen

NMWA’s Great Hall; Photo: Kevin Allen

Evening reception attendees sported glow stick accessories and enjoyed Miami-inspired appetizers and drinks—including zesty mini tacos and a specialty mojito—while DJ Elodie Maillot energized the crowd. Collectors Don and Mera Rubell were also in attendance and chatted with guests about the works on view.

From Brazilian artist Maria Nepomuceno’s immersive work to Karin Davie’s large-scale optical illusion, the power and playfulness of NO MAN’S LAND captivated its premier audience. Guests left the museum with smiles and compliments, lamenting the evening’s end and vowing to “return again soon to study the exhibition further.”

Intrigued? Become a member today and take part in the next Member Preview Day! Check the online calendar for more information about upcoming gallery talks and programs. Visit NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection, on view through January 8, 2017.

—Caroline Byrd is the fall 2016 membership intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Judy’s Diamond Jubilee

Today is a very special day for the legendary Judy Chicago—her 75th birthday!

Over her 75 years, Judy Chicago has made a prominent name for herself as an artist, author, educator, and source of inspiration for men and women all over the globe. After producing installation pieces such as Womanhouse (1972) and The Dinner Party (1975), Chicago achieved international stardom as a pioneer of the feminist art movement in the 1970s.

Judy Chicago at NMWA with museum Founder Wilhelmina Cole Holladay; Photo Laura Hoffman

Judy Chicago at NMWA with museum Founder Wilhelmina Cole Holladay; Photo: Laura Hoffman

In order to commemorate this dynamic period of Chicago’s career and the coinciding feminist movement, NMWA held an exhibition of her work earlier this year, Judy Chicago: Circa ’75. In March, Chicago visited the museum for an opportunity to speak to NMWA’s members and guests about the exhibition as well as her newest book, Institutional Time: A Critique of Studio Art Education.

During the conversation, Chicago applauded NMWA, saying, “as long as MoMA is a museum of men, we need a museum for women in the arts.” She described her regular past visits to the museum, noting how “every time I walk into [NMWA] I see my predecessors and what they had to go through to get here.”

At the end of the discussion, NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling presented Chicago with personalized cards to celebrate her birthday and pay homage to her incredible artistic achievements. Chicago was touched by the heartfelt gesture by the members, noting that she wanted to read their notes right then and there.

Cards from NMWA members to Chicago: “Thank you for sharing wisdom and beauty with your powerful art!”

Cards from NMWA members to Chicago: “Thank you for sharing wisdom and beauty with your powerful art!”

In Institutional Time, Chicago discusses her legacy, stating “I became determined to use my time on earth to create art—as much of it as possible . . . and to make a place for myself in art history.” Now, on her 75th birthday, Chicago has irrefutably, permanently left her mark on modern discourses of art history. Happy birthday to this visionary artist!

—Olivia Zvara is the member relations intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Membership, Mission, and Masterpieces

From NMWA’s founding in 1981 to the public opening of the museum in 1987, to the exhibitions and programs that have kept NMWA’s audiences educated and entertained throughout the years, the success of the National Museum of Women in the Arts depends on the loyal support of members. With thousands of members around the U.S. and abroad, NWMA’s membership is large, enthusiastic, and connected to the museum’s mission.

Members with Elena Brockmann's painting "Philip II Receiving the News of the Loss of the Invincible Armada," 1895; Members' Acquisition Fund

Members with Elena Brockmann’s painting Philip II Receiving the News of the Loss of the Invincible Armada, 1895; Members’ Acquisition Fund

In addition to supporting the museum’s special exhibitions, valued NMWA members have helped the museum to add numerous works to the collection—by distinguished artists such as Elena Brockmann, Chakaia Booker, Lesley Dill, and Judy Chicago. Works by these artists were acquired in part from the Members’ Acquisition Fund—which is built a few dollars at a time, when members add to their annual donations—and represent a wide range of mediums, time periods, and genres.

While Brockmann’s enormous work, Philip II Receiving the News of the Loss of the Invincible Armada, is an example of large-scale history painting from 19th-century Spain, Judy Chicago’s preparatory drawing for Emily Dickinson’s place setting in her iconic installation The Dinner Party is an emblem of the American feminist movement of the 1970s.

Chakaia Booker, Acid Rain, 2001; Museum purchase: Members’ Acquisition Fund

Chakaia Booker, Acid Rain, 2001; Museum purchase: Members’ Acquisition Fund

Members have also helped NMWA purchase contemporary installation pieces such as Booker’s Acid Rain, which deals with themes including the intersection between domestic femininity and the traditionally masculine realms of construction and technology. Lesley Dill’s I Heard a Voice, another contemporary work, provokes individual reflection through imagery related to nature, the body, literature, and the spirit.

These wonderful additions to the collection are just a few of the many works NMWA members have helped the museum to acquire.

In celebration of the summer season and the subsequent influx of visitors to NMWA, June has been designated as Membership Month. If you’d like to help NMWA celebrate the artistic accomplishments of women, please join today.

In honor of Membership Month, NMWA sends a special thanks to all of the members who have supported the museum over the years! Feel free to use the comments section to tell a story about the museum or let us know about your favorite accomplishment by members.

—Olivia Zvara is the member relations intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

NMWA’s New York Avenue Sculpture Project: Magdalena Abakanowicz

To honor Magdalena Abakanowicz (b.1930) on her 84th birthday, NMWA anticipates the upcoming public installation of her work on New York Avenue for one year beginning this September, as the third artist in the New York Avenue Sculpture Project. Groups of her signature monumental headless human figures, accompanied by flocks of simplified bird forms in flight, will fill the median to create a haunting, dynamic scene of masses in motion.

Magdalena Abakanowicz, Walking Figures (group of 10), 2009; Bronze, each approximately 106 ¼ x 35 ⅜ x 55 ⅛ in.; All images © Magdalena Abakanowicz, Courtesy of Marlborough Gallery, New York

Magdalena Abakanowicz, Walking Figures (group of 10), 2009; Bronze, each approximately 106 1/4 x 35 3/8 x 55 1/8 in.; All images © Magdalena Abakanowicz, Courtesy of Marlborough Gallery, New York

Viewers can often be most intrigued by artwork that juxtaposes dueling elements within a single form. This ambiguity—a “push-pull” sensation—makes it difficult for audiences to ascribe a definitive meaning to the work. They are driven to contemplate and more fully engage with the art in order to fix on a personal interpretation.

Abakanowicz’s large-scale figurative sculptures achieve this alluring duality, providing the viewer both a listless crowd and static memorial. With firsthand experience of the traumas of WWII in Poland as a child, and as a leader of the fiber arts movement of the 1960s, the artist communicates her sensibilities of loss and creation through these zombie-like forms.

Magdalena Abakanowicz, 4 Seated Figures, 2002; Gift of Patti Cadby Birch and partial museum purchase: Members’ Art Acquisition Fund

Magdalena Abakanowicz, 4 Seated Figures, 2002; Gift of Patti Cadby Birch and partial museum purchase: Members’ Art Acquisition Fund

A NMWA collection highlight, 4 Seated Figures (2002), currently on view in the Rose Benté Lee Sculpture Gallery, exemplifies these strangely seductive tensions in her work. The burlap-and-iron figures, appearing to be reconstructed from shed human skin, are halting yet enticing, solid yet empty, animated yet frozen, delicate yet heavy, and somber yet hopeful still.

These crumbling representations of the human body also attest to the limitations and uncertainties of the human experience—in our lives many things remain unknowable, inconceivable, and incomplete. The presence of Abakanowicz’s enigmatic figures on New York Avenue, in the midst of the District’s commuters and visitors, gives viewers a reason to pause and reflect on the inherent ambiguity of their own journeys.

Read more about the upcoming exhibition, on view September 27, 2014–September 27, 2015.

—Kelly Johnson is the publications and marketing/communications intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She is pursuing her MFA at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Curatorial Practice.