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Taking on the Role of Gender in Media

March 15, 2011


Lynn Hershman/Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco

IMAGES “The Deconstructive Impulse” showcases women’s role in illuminating media messages. Above, “Seduction,” by Lynn Hershman.

NEAR the entrance to “The Deconstructive Impulse,” at the Neuberger Museum of Art, is Lynn Hershman’s 1988 black-and-white photograph “Seduction.” In it, a woman vamps for the camera as she sprawls on a bed. She wears a short black dress and high heels, but instead of her head, a television set frames her oversize, mascara-heavy, closed eyes. The photograph is one of 68 works by 22 American artists supporting the show’s premise, boldly stated in its subtitle: “Women Artists Reconfigure the Signs of Power, 1973-1991.”

Deconstructivism in art seeks to disassemble and recontextualize materials from the mainstream media to illuminate potentially harmful messages. Until now, the established understanding was that deconstructivism was steered by men. In mounting “The Deconstructive Impulse,” the curators, Helaine Posner and Nancy Princenthal, were intent on setting the record straight.

“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.

Questions of authorship and authenticity, the dangers of stereotyping, and racism, classism and sexism in the media are addressed in prints, posters, paintings, photographs, videos and installations. Occupying three large gallery spaces, the show is organized into six sections — “Women’s Experience,” “Masquerade,” “Appropriation,” “Mass Media,” “Fashion” and “Critique of Cultural Institutions” — illustrating different approaches to deconstructivism.

“What we realized was not only that women were at the forefront of this movement,” said Ms. Princenthal, formerly the senior editor at Art in America, “but also that a lot of the issues they covered were motivated by feminism.”

Read more at: Taking on the Role of Gender in Media

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