Blog / Deconstructing Gender & History

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By Andrew

Decades after the fact,  some of the 20th century’s most important artists are finally getting their long deserved credit.

Today, The New York Times covered “The Deconstructive Impulse,” which is currently at the Neuberger Museum of Art and coming to the Nasher Museum this fall. Featuring 68 works by 22 artists, including Cindy Sherman, Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems and Hannah Wilke, the exhibition covers the years between 1973 and 1991 — effectively two unique generations of feminist artists.

Specifically, the show engages the idea of deconstruction — that is, the strategy of disassembling and reassembling to expose contradictions, hidden meanings and creating or reconfiguring new meanings. Associated philosophically with Derrida and architecturally with the likes of Frank Gehry and Rem Koolhaas, the curators of “The Deconstructive Impulse” sought to prove deconstruction wasn’t, and isn’t, a boy’s club. From The New York Times article:

“This is the first show to survey women’s contributions to deconstructivism,” Ms. Posner, the chief curator at the Neuberger, said, describing the exhibition as “a revisionist show” based on 25 years of perspective.

The exhibition is part of a decades-old dialogue that seeks to revise the role of women in art history and institutions. The show coincides not only with other exhibitions but also with Lynn Hershman Leeson’s (who is featured in “The Deconstructive Impulse”) years-in-the-making documentary “!Women Art Revolution,” a “secret history” of 20th century art as recorded by Hershman Leeson over the years and being released this summer.

The exhibition includes venerable and challenging hallmarks of the period such as Martha Rosler’s “Semiotics of the Kitchen” (1975), Dara Birnbaum’s “Technology/Transformation” (1978) and posters by the Guerilla Girls. More than just proving that deconstruction wasn’t pioneered by a group of men, the works in this show reveal that many of the dominant aesthetic strategies and media of the past 50 years of art were determined by women. In short, this work is more than feminist: it’s ground-breaking.

“The Deconstructive Impulse” comes to the Nasher Museum on September 15.

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