Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Who are the Guerrilla Girls?

"Guerrilla Girls are an anonymous group of feminist, female artists devoted to fighting sexism and racism within the art world. The female activists wanted to bring to light the white male dominance that was harbored with in the art community. The group formed in New York City in 1985 with the mission of bringing gender and racial inequality within the fine arts to focus within the greater community. Members are known for the gorilla masks they wear to remain anonymous. They were the masks to conceal their identity because they believed that their identity is not what matters but it is the issue as GG1 explains in an interview "...mainly, we wanted the focus to be on the issues, not on our personalities or our own work."[1] Also, their identity is hidden to protect themselves from the backlash of prominent individuals within the art community.

Guerrilla Girls were formed by 7 women artists in the spring of 1985 in response to the Museum of Modern Art's exhibition "An International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture", which opened in 1984. The exhibition was the inaugural show in the MoMA's newly renovated and expanded building, and was planned to be a survey of the most important contemporary artists.This exhibition was meant to show the most important contemporary art in the world.[2]

In total, the show featured works by 169 artists, of whom only 13 were female. Guerrilla Girls claimed that a comment by the show's curator, Kynaston McShine, further highlighted the gendered bias of the exhibition and of MoMA as an institution: “Kynaston McShine, gave interviews saying that any artist who wasn’t in the show should rethink ‘his’ career.”[3] In reaction to the exhibition and the prejudice McShine displayed and decided to protest in front of the museum. Thus, the Guerrilla Girls were born.

The protests yielded little success, however, and so the Guerrilla Girls embarked upon a postering campaign throughout New York City, particularly in the SoHo and East Village neighborhoods.[4]

Once better established, the group also started taking note of racism within the art world, incorporating artists of color into their fold. They also began working on projects outside of New York, commenting on sexism and racism nationally and internationally. Though the art world has remained the group's main focus, challenging sexism and racism in films, mass and popular culture, and politics has also been part of the Guerrilla Girl's agenda. Tokenism also represents a major group concern.[4]

When asked about the masks the girls answer "We were Guerrillas before we were Gorillas. From the beginning the press wanted publicity photos. We needed a disguise. No one remembers, for sure, how we got our fur, but one story is that at an early meeting, an original girl, a bad speller, wrote 'Gorilla' instead of 'Guerrilla.' It was an enlightened mistake. It gave us our 'mask-ulinity.'".[5] In an interview with Interview Magazine the Girls were quoted, "Anonymous free speech is protected by the Constitution. You'd be surprised what comes out of your mouth when you wear a mask."- via wikipedia

In their own words....

"We’re feminist masked avengers in the tradition of anonymous do-gooders like Robin Hood, Wonder Woman and Batman. How do we expose sexism, racism and corruption in politics, art, film and pop culture? With facts, humor and outrageous visuals. We reveal the understory, the subtext, the overlooked, and the downright unfair. Our work has been passed around the world by our tireless supporters. Just in the last several years, we’ve appeared at over 90 universities and museums, as well as The New York Times, Interview, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Bitch, and Artforum; on NPR, the BBC and CBC; and in many art and feminist texts. We are authors of stickers, billboards, many, many posters and street projects, and several books including The Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art and Bitches, Bimbos and Ballbreakers: The Guerrilla Girls' Guide to Female Stereotypes. We’re part of Amnesty International’s Stop Violence Against Women Campaign in the UK; we're brainstorming with Greenpeace. We've unveiled anti-film industry billboards in Hollywood just in time for the Oscars, and created a large scale installation for the Venice Biennale, and street projects for Krakow, Istanbul, Mexico City and Montreal. We dissed the Museum of Modern Art at its own Feminist Futures Symposium, examined the museums of Washington DC in a full page in the Washington Post, and exhibited large-scale posters and banners in London, Athens, Bilbao, Montreal, Rotterdam, Sarajevo and Shanghai.


More creative complaining! More facts, humor and fake fur!
More appearances, actions and artworks. We could be anyone; we are everywhere."

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