Female artists, and those of older generations, steal the show at this year’s Frieze Art Fair. Many of these artists found their voices back in the ’60s and ’70s, when Betty Friedan’s Feminist Mystique had barely arrived on the bookshelves, but the battle, some would argue, is far from over, and female artists undervalued by history continue to emerge today. Connie Butler’s 2007 show “Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution”at MOCA and MoMA PS1 represented a revisionist approach to the participation of women in the avant-garde art movements of the late 20th century, and at Frieze, several booths give a taste of this revolutionary fervor.
Leading the charge, Elizabeth Dee and Anke Kempkes of Broadway 1602, whose galleries both have firm roots in feminist histories, collaborate on a booth that features a selection of women artists from their respective programs. Among them is the Brazilian visual poet and conceptual artist Leonora De Barros, with a background in linguistics, whose photographic body art piece Poem (1979) suggests the violations wrought on the female body through language—in the form of a female tongue ensnared in the grips of a typewriter. Alongside De Barros and others, Miriam Cahn, a key figure of the European women’s movement shows Kalender (1979), a major feminist work originally commissioned by the Swiss Feminist advocacy group in Basel, featuring twelve designs resembling each month of 1979—the same year that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted internationally.
Elsewhere, in the FOCUS section, Espaivisor homes in on the work of Croatian artist Sanja Iveković, whose powerful performances, videos, installations, and actions—often comprising bold explorations into the politics of images and the body—have captivated audiences since the 1970s. She presents Invisible Women, focusing on females who have been erased from history and probing the representation of women in mass media, as well as and personal/collective references to Europe’s historical memory. At Wilkinson, the pioneering and influential performance and video artist Joan Jonas—known for ritualistic forays into costuming, and female identity and eroticism, and notably, the U.S. representative at the 2015 Venice Biennale—gets the spotlight with a presentation of her performance drawings.
Meanwhile, over at James Fuentes, Alison Knowles, a founding member of the Fluxus movement, takes the stand. The contribution of female artists to Fluxus was invaluable and unprecedented, and Knowles’s performance and sculptural works—incorporating tactile, aural, and social elements, or made with ephemeral materials such as flax, beans, and found objects—are a striking conduit through which that history emerges at Frieze. Perhaps the most direct homage to the women’s movement, Freymond-Guth shows a monumental painting A.I.R. Group (1977) by the late Sylvia Sleigh, a group portrait of members of the A.I.R. gallery, the United States’s first collective gallery run by women. Among its subjects are founders Nancy Spero, Judith Bernstein, Howardena Pindell, and Mary Beth Edelson—heros of the feminist art movement whose works continue to subvert, provoke, and inspire to this day.