Why Are We All Naked? 2,0

Rachael Frank
Oct 21, 2014 3:25AM

In light of the recent United Nations speech given by Emma Watson it is clear that the battle ground of female bodies has hit a global scale. Its permeating into international as well as local politics over the treatment of women from the home, to the workplace and to the street. Celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence are being sexually harassed on the internet and young women are plastered naked in advertisements of every kind. 

Why Are We All Naked? is an exhibition which explores the privilege of male viewership of the female body. It expands upon Laura Mulvey’s piece Visual and Other Pleasures by challenging the pleasurable nature of looking at a female form through the works within the show. Starting with male artists such as Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, and Robert Rauschenberg the show highlights the male viewership and portrayal of women. This is juxtaposed by more contemporary pieces by Jenny Savile, Tracey Emin, Joan Jonas, Regina José Galindo and Marina Abramović which in context of the show create room for possible criticism. These women illustrate the reclaiming of the female form in various ways, all of which tie back to Emma Watson’s speech “Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals.” 

The piece by Jordon Wolfson strongly ties to this theme by portraying a sexual female form with a haunting mask. This mask illustrates the fear that is constructed around female power but also ties into Picasso’s Reclining Nude and Man with Mask. These two works play off of each other, creating contextual questions of the female form, masculine viewership, power and sexuality. Furthermore, the contrast between Jenny Saville’s work and Petter Jenson and Laurie Simmons’ Paper Dolls series strongly creates a visceral visual contradiction challenging the pleasurable nature of viewing women and what it does to women. 

As a female curator, by combining both male and female artists focused on the nude female, this context will raise cultural questions with the audience; such as, the power of their viewership  and the questionable pleasure of viewing these female forms. Furthermore, the cultural challenge presents itself in where these works of art come from. All the works for this show are a part of the permanent collections of institutions associated with Artsy. In a way it references Fred Wilson’s piece Mining the Museum, for it takes these permanent works and turns them on their head, showing them in a new way to highlight a controversial topic. 

In totality Why Are We All Naked? creates an environment where the cultural struggles surrounding women and their bodies manifests itself in the art world, and forces the audience to engage with these issues face to face in a new medium. 

Rachael Frank
Get the Artsy app
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play
Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019