Women at the Rockwell

Ilonka Karasz, "Group of Figures" (detail), 1923. Lithograph on paper, 12 1/8 x 101/8. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. R. Kenneth Sigmund. GMOA 2006.218.

The Rockwell Museum Will Exclusively Pursue Artworks by Women in 2020 to Mark Centennial of Suffrage

Inspired by the centennial of women’s suffrage in the United States, The Rockwell Museum is proud to announce its 2020 theme, ADVANCING WOMEN. In support of this theme, The Rockwell will prominently feature the work of women makers in the year’s programming and exhibitions and pledges to only pursue collection acquisitions by women artists for the entire year.

Martine Gutierrez, Demons, Xochipilli ‘The Flower Prince,’ p. 91 from Indigenous Woman, 2018. C-print mounted on Sintra, hand-painted artist frame. 39 x 27 in. Clara S. Peck Fund. 2019.7.1a-b

Women and people of color are routinely under-supported and under-represented by galleries, collectors, scholars and museums. Although women make up more than 50% of the U.S. population, just 13% of the artists with work on view in major institutions are women according to a 2019 study by the Public Library of Science. Today, roughly 32% of objects on view in The Rockwell’s permanent galleries are by women artists and makers.

“This theme was chosen as an active response to the under-representation of women artists throughout American institutions,” said Kirsty Harper Buchanan, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at The Rockwell Museum. “Deeply entrenched cultural biases have prevented a fair and open art market and restricted equal access to resources.”

“This celebration of suffrage will also be pointedly inclusive of works by women of color since this milestone is a critical reminder that the original extension of voting rights only applied to white women,” said Brian Lee Whisenhunt, Executive Director of The Rockwell Museum. “Our mission is to provoke curiosity, engagement and reflection about art and the American experience. However, the multi-faceted and diverse nature of that experience is often left out of discussions about it. With this theme, we are recommitting our organization and its community of members and supporters to better reflect that diversity.”

The Rockwell has already jumpstarted its work to increase representation with two recent acquisitions that will broaden the depth of its permanent collection.

West was a pioneering member of the Abstract Expressionist movement, and one of the few women artists who defined the emerging New York School. After studying with Hans Hofmann at the Art Students League, she evolved his view of Synthetic Cubism into her own groundbreaking style of non-representational, expressionist, abstract, action painting. During the 1940s, West’s artistic development paced that of Jackson Pollock but her talent (and that of many other women artists) was often seen as a derivative of men. This gender bias, coupled with a dramatic relationship with fellow artist Arshile Gorky that often overshadowed her career, resulted in her being primarily remembered as “Gorky’s muse” rather than a pioneer in her own right. West adopted the nom de brosse “Michael” at Gorky’s suggestion. The purpose of the ruse was to mask her gender at a time when women artists were tolerated but did not enjoy equal access to the art world.

Brooklyn-based performance artist Martine Gutierrez explores the intersection of personal and collective identity and the role gender plays in crafting those identities. A transgender woman, Gutierrez serves as subject, artist and muse within her own ground-breaking work to examine the fluidity of gender, sexuality and relationships. Xochipilli ‘The Flower Prince’ is a photographic print that originally appeared in Gutierrez’s magazine-inspired work Indigenous Woman (2018). The image depicts a personification of the Aztec god Xochipilli, a benevolent deity of excesses and fertility. Xochipilli was associated with feasting, flowers, pleasure, dancing, painting, hallucinogens, games and artistic creativity.

The Rockwell’s 2020 dynamic exhibition calendar also features Kara Walker: Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated) on loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Prints by Women from the University of Georgia Art Museum. The Rockwell will also serve as the only venue for Precursors of American Abstraction: Featured Quilts from the Holstein Family Collection, curated from a private New York collection. Its lecture series, educational outreach, programming, special events and more will also be built around the ADVANCING WOMEN theme.


Advancing Women: 2020 Exhibitions

Prints By Women: Selected European and American Works from the Georgia Museum of Art
Organized by the Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Athens
On view: January 31 – April 26, 2020

Haudenosaunee Beadwork from the Dolores Elliott Collection
On view: February 14 – June 21, 2020

Antigravity: Elain Ng
March 19, 2020 – February 2021

Three Generations: Paintings By Pablita Velarde, Helen Hardin and Margarete Bagshaw
January 10, 2020 – January 2021

Kara Walker’s Pictorial History of the Civil War
On loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum
May 15 – September 7, 2020

Precursors of American Abstraction: Featured Quilts from the Holstein Family Collection
September 24, 2020 – January 2021


About The Rockwell Museum: A Smithsonian Affiliate

The Rockwell Museum, in association with the Smithsonian Institution, collection tells the story of the American experience through a display of stunning art about America. Founded in 1976, The Rockwell is an evolving community center which showcases the best of America through compelling exhibitions and imaginative programs.  The diverse collection includes a mix of contemporary Native American art with traditional bronze sculptures, landscape paintings and other works that embody America. Housed in the beautifully restored 19th century Old City Hall building, The Rockwell is active in the local community and holds special events and educational programming with area public schools. The Rockwell provokes curiosity, engagement and reflection about art and the American experience.

Learn more at www.rockwellmuseum.org, and follow on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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