Radical Women at the Hammer Museum

“Barrigas” (1978-1983) by Johanna Hamann (1954-2017) in the “Mapping the Body” Theme at the Hammer Museum’s Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985 Part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. Image Credit: Israel Cedillo

As part of the Pacific Standard Time initiative, the Hammer Museum is one of the 70 participating institutions that had the opportunity to host the Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985 exhibition this past fall 2017. This showcase, curated by Cecilia Fajardo-Hill and Andrea Giunta, radicalizes the way we perceive self exploration and self worth through pieces like that of Johanna Hamann whose work of art, “Bellies,” stirs emotions in the eyes of the beholder with its raw context of decaying tissue. The majority of the pieces in Radical Women manage to captivate the mind of the visitor through elements of crudeness and nudity, provoking the viewer to wonder how bold the artist had to be in order to recreate an idea so revolutionizing in a time period that marginalized these groups of women.

What the exhibition has done is that it has placed Latinx women from 15 different countries at the forefront of the museum’s face. This shift from being marginalized to being the center of attention allows the women to receive the praise that has been neglected for decades. The artists showcased in Radical Women have encountered cultural marginalization and gender stereotypes that have tried to confine them in the traditional Latin American household role. But through means of expression (paintings, videos, installations), these women have broken the chain that once forced them to live up to those expectations. Their work demands that viewers contrast the difference between the patriarchal view of women — in regards to beauty and role in society — and that of their own.

Ultimately, the exhibit voices for the women who remain in the shadows, unacknowledged and undermined.

When visitors first enter the exhibition, they don’t know what to expect other than works of art that are meant to symbolize reconciliation of cultural identity and pride like the video work by Victoria Santa Cruz “Me gritaron negra (They shouted black at me)” from 1978. But Radical Women is much more than that.

The exhibition gives women of color a platform to demonstrate the normality in seeing their everyday hard-work go unnoticed. A great example is Lourdes Grobet’s “La Briosa” because as the mother (assumed) feeds a baby milk in an apron, she hides her identity with a luchadora mask. Her work in the household is implied by the apron she wears, often reminding us of our own Latin American mothers who cook and clean for us. Their hard-work can sometimes go unnoticed by how accustomed we are to always having them in the household. Truly, they are the people who work the hardest but never get recognition, hence why she wears a luchador mask.

“Cama” (1974) by Feliza Bursztyn (Colombia, 1933-1982) at the Hammer Museum’s Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985 Part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. Image Credit: Israel Cedillo

Most of the artists in Radical Women attempt to present the most natural representation of Latin American women. Some of the pieces stay in the lines of Lourdes Grobet’s, while others expand the idea of self-exploration through freedom of sexuality. “La Cama” by Feliza Bursztyn is an installation in the erotic section of Radical Women. This metal framework is covered completely by a satin cloth, leaving it up to the imagination of the viewer of what happens in a bed. Many of the reactions to this piece included laughter and shock. It was one of the many works of art that demanded that women be allowed to explore their own sexuality free of judgement.

These three pieces, “Bellies,” “La Briosa,” and “La Cama” were by far some of my favorite pieces because they were able to provoke a reaction from me and from the other visitors. All together, these three pieces best represent the exhibition Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985.


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