According to the exhibition card, Artemisia after 40 is intended to celebrate Artemisia’s legacy as a groundbreaking women’s cooperative gallery on the Chicago art scene, but misses the mark in many respects.
Born out of the leftist progressive feminist movement of the 1960’s and an integral part of the American women coop gallery scene started in 1972 in New York with the founding of A.I.R. Gallery, Artemisia opened its doors in 1973 and shuttered thirty years later in 2003. During its 30-year run, the gallery had more than 150 women artists and held many pioneering exhibitions, several of which curated by leading feminist art critics, activists, and curators, including Lucy Lippard.
In light of this rich and active history and the stated goal of celebration a legacy, one would expect the exhibition to explore the galleries influence on the careers of the artists included and to provide context for their inclusion, discussing the length and time frame of their gallery membership and identifying significant Artemisia exhibitions they were included in. In addition, a discussion of how the selection of included artists was made would be helpful.
None of this is done, and all we are left with is an unfocussed and disjointed exhibition bringing together the work of 55 past gallery members. Making matters even worse is the amateurish exhibition installation. At the entrance for the exhibition, a letter size sheet with the blurb from the exhibition card is taped to the wall, masquerading as the introductory panel to the exhibition. Also taped up is a sheet with information on where to find light switches to turn on gallery lights, and a sheet informing visitors of special events. Several object labels contain pen cross out of incorrect information, with corrections hand-written, and several labels are handwritten all together. Thus rather than offering up a celebration, the cavalier attitude of the exhibition’s curators suggests a lack of respect for both Artemisia’s legacy and the artists whose works are included in the exhibition.
The exhibition opened May 2 at the Bridgeport Art Center Gallery on the fourth floor of the Bridgeport Art Center, which is located at 1200 West 35th Street in Chicago. The exhibition runs through June 13, 2014 and is open Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. till 6 p.m and Sunday 8 a.m. till noon.