When asked why she had sculpted such pronounced, sugar-coated labia on A Subtlety, the mammy-sphinx recently on view at the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, Kara Walker answered, “[It’s about] ownership of the voluptuousness of an ass”; “a 10-foot vagina…is not something that happens in art often enough”; and “[It was] a fuck-you, I’m gonna do that because this is what I have…there are enough phallic symbols in the world…” Visitors to Daughter of Bad Girls—a new exhibition at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery that positions seven contemporary artists as heirs to the fierce femmes that appeared in Marcia Tucker’s 1994 exhibition, Bad Girls, at the New Museum and Bad Girls West, its sister exhibition at the Hammer Museum in L.A. (then UCLA’s Wight Art Gallery)—are, a little disappointingly, greeted not by the vagina but by two phallic lacquer-and-ceramic sculptures of genetically manipulated Roma tomatoes by Jessica Rath. As glossy and fecund-looking as they are, these two sleek red forms give the male part undue emphasis in the small gallery space. Not all of the works in Daughter of Bad Girls go so far astray, but on the whole the exhibition cannot help but pale in comparison to the potent era of third-wave feminist art that it invokes.
Turning polite, palatable “feminine” behavior on its head with rebellious, even anarchist abandon, Daughter of Bad Girls aims to pick up where predecessors like Riot Grrrls and Kathe Burkhart left off. Xaviera Simmons, in a large-scale photographic self-portrait, presents herself sprawled horizontally on a striped picnic rug, masturbating in broad daylight. The noisy collaborative duo Ridykeulous, made up of A.L. Steiner and Nicole Eisenman, defaces a printed copy of the Guerrilla Girls’ famous poster The Advantages of Being a Woman Artist (1989), which laid out in stark terms the appalling state of female representation in the visual arts. Eighteen years on, Ridykeulous’s brazen revision of this key text, The Advantages of Being a Lesbian Woman Artist (2007), suggests feminist offspring unafraid of cannibalizing their revolutionary forebears. According to Ridykeulous’ vandalizing scribbles, “Working without the pressure of success” becomes “Working without the pressure of sucking dick.” Read More »