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Gorilla Girls redux

Poster for Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, by Carolyn Campbell
Gallery Talley

Have you seen the latest poster campaign despairing gender inequality in art galleries?

No, it’s not the work of the Gorilla Girls, circa 1984, who protested against MoMA’s 169-artist show that took in only 13 women, not to mention the exhibit curator’s contention that those bypassed should rethink their careers.

This time, the female complaint is from Micol Hebron, an associate art professor at Chapman University, CA., who has mounted a poster campaign on the internet under the banner Gallery Talley. The campaign is against the 70 percent male domination of gallery shows

But something is missing here: the tally of how many women actually tried to show in galleries and got turned away. Hebron’s documentation seems to center on the disproportionate number of women who enroll in Master of Fine Art courses in southern California. This simply proves that a lot of women study art on a graduate level. It doesn’t indicate which female artists wanting in a gallery are being left out.

Of course Hebron is right to worry about 70% of art coming from one point of view. But it’s notable that the Gorilla Girls protest against MoMA produced little or no change. Clearly, something needs to be done and a poster protest isn't it.

Perhaps Hebron ought to consider showcasing female artists on the web who she feels warrant gallery attention. Present women’s work instread of their protests and let the world know what it’s missing.

Whatever you do, don’t do all-female art shows like the LA Art Girls Art Fair Biennale, which is what Centre Pompidou did four years ago when it purged its collection galleries of all male-made work for a near-year-long, women-only show. Women-only shows isolate women and there’s been enough of that. Given that an historical corrective is needed, it’s not good to divide art by gender. The separation only reinforces the divide.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts in D.C. is also a cautionary tale. By segregating women, the museum shifts focus away from art to advocacy of women's rights. And it hasn’t made a dent in the Gallery Talley numbers.

It’s also worth remembering the words of Georgia O’Keeffe when invited to participate in a women's art exhibit. “I’m not a "woman painter.''