RIDGEFIELD — A new show at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum tracks feminist art practices over the past five decades and includes artists from the museum’s landmark show in 1971 alongside emerging female-identifying or nonbinary artists born after 1980.
”52 Artists: A Feminist Milestone” celebrates the 51st anniversary of the museum’s show, “Twenty-six Contemporary Women Artists,” and adds 26 emerging artists who — like the original exhibitors — are living and working in New York City and have not had a solo museum show as of March 1, 2022.
“This group of 26 emerging artists reflect the revolutionary advancement of feminist art practices over half a century and exhibit a diversity of experiences and a multiplicity of sensibilities united by a twenty-first century feminist expression that is inclusive, expansive, elastic, and free,” said Senior Curator Amy Smith-Stewart, in a release.
The original show was curated by Lucy Lippard, a writer, art critic, activist and curator, who viewed curating the show as an activist gesture in the art world.
“I took on this show because I knew there were many women artists whose work was as good or better than that currently being shown, but who, because of the prevailingly discriminatory policies of most galleries and museums, can rarely get anyone to visit their studios or take them as seriously as their male counterparts,” Lippard wrote in the 1971 show catalogue.
Smith-Stewart said Lippard’s show was a form of activism.
“It was giving women artists visibility and claiming space in an art world that had excluded them and silenced them, and how they didn’t have any opportunities to exhibit,” Smith-Stewart explained.
She said the 2022 art world is global and is becoming more inclusive, and the definition of feminist art practices has also evolved.
“What really has happened is feminism has become ‘feminisms’ and now it’s a mass social justice movement to support and give voices to all marginalized groups,” she said. “Feminist feminisms and feminist art practices really has a legacy of breaking down hierarchies, binary ways of thinking, heteronormative hetero-patriarchal systems and especially the art canon,” said Smith-Stewart.
Included are a number of pieces from artists in the original show as well as selections of their more recent work.
While the first show represented women artists, the 2022 show includes female-identifying and nonbinary artists, reflecting the evolution of feminist art practice, she said.
“Bringing the two lists together shows where feminist art practice has been and where it is heading — and how it has basically imploded a lot of this binary thinking which was marginalizing and excluding,” Smith-Stewart said. “So that’s why we decided to call the show ‘52 artists’ and not ‘52 women artists’ because there are artists in the new list who are nonbinary.”
She said the museum has been organizing the show since 2017 and had planned to open it in 2021 to celebrate 50 years, but the pandemic delayed the show a year.
“This is a major endeavor because it’s really two exhibitions in one. We have what is a homage, a recreation of an original historic exhibition, and then, a kind of manifesto with the younger artists,” she said.
The exhibition is the first show that has ever spanned the entirety of the museum and its grounds since the museum was inaugurated in 2004.
“The original show kind of embodied the feminist struggle, the movement and 50 years later you see the transformative possibilities of feminism, but the struggle persists, just in a different way,” Smith-Stewart said. “It would be exciting in 50 years to remount this show.”
The exhibition was organized by Smith-Stewart and independent curator Alexandra Schwartz with Caitlin Monachino, curatorial assistant.
“52 Artists: A Feminist Milestone”
June 6, 2022 to Jan. 8, 2023
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum