You will undoubtedly leave the beyond-comprehensive exhibition exhausted; it seems to be no accident that the show, brimming with more female nudes than the top shelf of an airport bookstore, arouses one regardless of orientation – sexually, politically and mentally.
It is for this exhibition the word “groundbreaking” was coined. You don't just see the exhibition, you join the movement.
On Sunday, March 4th, artists with works in the exhibition took a poly-gendered, poly-sexualized, poly-educated group of 100 through a walking tour of the exhaustive exhibit, giving rare insight, and tangible excitement, to the show's opening day.
When Mary Beth Edelson wanted to create a Last Supper of female artists in 1972, she was unable to find 12 pictures of female artists in any magazines or textbooks. “I had to send out letters asking for artists to send in photographs of themselves, as they didn't exist anywhere else,” she says.
Days after Last Supper/Some Living American Women Artists Collage went on view, it was denounced, and censored, by right wing religious groups. “They said ‘putting a woman's head on the body of Christ is like putting a pig's head on Christ,'” recalls Edelson. Chauvinist pig doesn't begin to describe it.
It is this view of women as meat, pure objects of desire, Marys or Magdalenes, objects of affliction and just plain objects that pervade this sweeping exhibit. If you're unable to have Sylvia Sleigh or Orlan at your side, in the spirit of egalitarianism, MOCA does something all museums should adopt: instead of paying for an audio tour, visitors can either dial in a number on their cell phone while at the exhibit or download MP3s to their iPod (www.moca.org/wack).
WACK! , with the work of 119 artists from 21 countries comes after more than eight years in the making, and it feels so. It is unequivocally the most important exhibition in Los Angeles in the past 10 years. You do a disservice to your gender – male, female, or something in between – and your race as a human being to miss it.
The same detractors who maligned Edelson's piece may say the entire exhibition is a Feminism 101 diorama, an admonishment of males, a reproach of seeing women as beautiful creatures. But Sylvia Sleigh, 91, painter of the iconic A.I.R. Group Portrait and The Turkish Bath disagrees: “Object of desire. I don't mind the desire, I mind the objects.”
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA is located at 152 N. Central Ave. in Los Angeles. Hours: Mon & Fri, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat & Sun, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission: $8, $5 for students with ID, free every Thursday from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. For more information, call (213) 621-1741 or visit www.moca.org.