Frieze Fair Is Focusing on Women Artists in Its Upcoming Exhibition – ‘Social Work’
In 2017, Frieze London presented Sex Work:
Radical Art & Feminist Politics, a show that presented the work of radical feminist artists from the 1960’s and 70’s who had been censured during their career. This year the Frieze Fair will be tackling another controversial feminist theme with Social Work, which will focus on the extraordinary contribution of female artists during the 1980’s.
More than making a statement on gender inequality in the arts, the fair will celebrate the work of powerful women artists by giving them the exhibition space they had been denied in the past. For so many years the art world was largely dominated by male artists with contributions made by female artists relegated to the sidelines. Even prominent artists like Jenny Holzer and Cindy Sherman had to find alternative spaces to show their works.
The all-female curatorial panel for the upcoming show includes Iwona Blaznick, current director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery, as well as other luminaries of the international art world: Jennifer Higgie (Editorial Director, frieze), Melanie Keen, Polly Staple, Sally Tallant (Director, Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art), Fatos Ustek, Zoe Whitley, Lydia Yee, Katrina Brown, Louisa Buck and Amira Gad (Exhibitions Curator, Serpentine Galleries).
Breaking Rules in The 1980’sThe 1980’s was a decade that demonstrated a return to painting especially by male artists. The exhibition “A New Spirit in Painting” held in 1981 at the Royal Academy in London was an all-male affair that reflected the fact that female artists of the time were finding it hard to compete for exhibition space. This despite the fact that many female artists were challenging the boundaries of contemporary art, moving into multimedia, performance and video art. While male artists were returning to neo-classicism their female compatriots were exploring the future, challenging the status quo and embracing activism in their art, but still they had no room in the traditional exhibition spaces, and they were unlikely to be able to survive solely as artists.
Has Anything Changed?
While exhibitions and shows like Social Work and Sex Work do much to celebrate the contributions of female artists often ignored by mainstream media and galleries, there is still a disparity between the numbers of male and female artists being shown today. Marijke Steedman of the Freelands Foundation noted that only 22% of solo shows presented by London galleries were by female artists, which is a dip in numbers of around 8% compared to 2016. There is an even stronger decline in the numbers of women artists represented by top London galleries. In 2017, only around 28% of artists represented by galleries in London were female, another drop since 2016 of a whopping 29%.
The Frieze Fair doesn’t seek to redress the issue by replaying the past, but to celebrate and bring to the fore the contributions of female artists, largely forgotten, often ignored by the major galleries during the 1980’s. .
Jacob Hashimoto Talks About ‘The Eclipse’ and ‘Never Comes Tomorrow’
New York City artist Jacob Hashimoto is known for his large-scale installation pieces. Born in 1973 in Greeley, Colorado, Hashimoto draws on his Japanese heritage to create complex worlds from components such as paper kites, colorful disks and political stickers. His works are multi-layered and have references to a range of topics including cosmology, political protest, and even video games. Hashimoto’s work is often colorful and amorphous, can be happy or gloomy – and is usually made up of multiple components, expertly layered. It is always intricate and eloquent.
A wave of dark and light
One of Jacob Hashimoto’s most recent works is ‘The Eclipse’, a wave of black and white disks suspended from a ceiling – it resembles a tornado. Each disk is a hand-crafted paper and wood kite – and there are over 15,000 of them! ‘The Eclipse’ was conceived during the period leading up to the American elections and constructed after Donald Trump took his seat in 2016. The piece was first shown at the 57th Venice Biennale and later in the UAE in Dubai at the Leila Heller Gallery and currently resides in St Cornelius Chapel on Governors Island off the Manhattan coast.
A blood-red screen-print of the American flag is printed on the back of the black kites but is only visible in certain light. In an interview, Hashimoto said that this expressed that there is a storm coming to America and that this particular work symbolized the eclipse of three decades of progress in America. Hashimoto believes it is patriotic for citizens to talk about what they feel is happening in their country.
History and cosmology merge in an understated political statement
Installed near ‘The Eclipse’ on Governors Island, there is yet another one of Hashimoto’s works. The ‘Never Comes Tomorrow’ installation was created with steel, ABS, wood, LED lights and vinyl stickers. It consists of two large steel funnels. One is made up of a mix of colorful and transparent spheres, the other abstract shapes changing to rectangles in shades of green and blue. The funnels resemble vortexes and have hundreds of small wooden cubes emerging from the tails that meet in the center. The cubes house stickers, some made by Hashimoto and others collected at a Women’s Day protest against Trump’s inauguration attended by the artist. Some sport slogans like, ‘Not My President’ and ‘Refugees Are Welcome Here’.
‘Never Comes Tomorrow’ is installed in Liggett Arch, a deep passageway in a former infantry housing space. The design clearly references Hashimoto’s deep interest in both history and cosmology. Hashimoto disclosed that he had some concerns about the political stickers on the piece but the piece was installed at such a height, the stickers are not really visible to the public. The artist considers ‘Never Comes Tomorrow’ to be a self-portrait. He built it while he was working with the Natural History Museum in New York in collaboration with an astrophysicist on a range of paintings of exoplanets. This was part of what influenced Hashimoto in creating the piece. He was also inspired by Tiffany lamps – something that featured in Hashimoto’s opinion on cultural appropriation.
Whose culture is it anyway?
Pablo Picasso said, ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal’. Cultural appropriation has been a contentious topic for decades, and yet it has featured in art for centuries – ust look at how similar Greek and Egyptian sculptures are. Jacob Hashimoto acknowledges that the history of art is filled with cultural appropriation and admits that he is also guilty of this. He is interested in how Tiffany assimilated an Asian decorative language with classic American art objects. And Tiffany was only one of many examples of cultural appropriation in the arts. Matisse was also a cultural appropriator. He rendered odalisque fantasies as paintings of Middle East harems. So was Claude Monet who painted his wife dressed up in a traditional Japanese kimono. In creating ‘Never Comes Tomorrow’, Hashimoto intentionally stole from Tiffany by building giant black holes that resemble Tiffany lamps.
Dark titles for works light as air
Jacob Hashimoto’s work is usually approached by art critics as having tranquil qualities. His Japanese heritage is often connected with his art and discussions around the meditative qualities of the pieces occur. According to Hashimoto, leaving the work to speak for itself will encourage this narrative, but believes it’s possible to push people into stepping back and questioning the meaning of the work through a simple technique. This method involves pairing off ethereal and light works of art with deep, heavy and thought-provoking titles. Whether it is psychosexual, long and complex, or simply crazy, the juxtaposition of awarding a light work with a dark title instills curiosity in viewers and forces them to rethink their initial assumptions about the meaning behind the piece.
Vibrant and decorative, or dark and gloomy – it’s all goodColor, patterns, or both are richly featured throughout Jacob Hashimoto’s work. Works like ‘The Eclipse’ are not colorful and gives a more somber impression than works like ‘Light, Like Static Vanished into Shadows’ a work which is particularly vibrant and colorful. Crafted with acrylic, Dacron, bamboo, paper and wood, it features explosive color and repeated patterns. The viewer’s eyes are drawn for one line to the next – some are left feeling cheerful, others merely frantic. The question is whether the artist considers how color will affect the overall mood of the work as he is constructing the piece.
Color can be therapeutic
Hashimoto asserts that he is not a colorist as such, and does not use any procedure to attempt to create a mood. At the start of his journey as an artist he used color as a device to get people to notice his work – he hoped that this would compel them to decipher the language his work speaks. Hashimoto now approaches color intuitively and often attempts to find awkward color situations. He also believes that making colorful and powerful art can create optimism positive energy. This not only results in a powerful end product but is also therapeutic for the artist.
In most countries, whenever budget cuts have to be made, the arts are invariably threatened. And yet, the arts make up an industry with the potential to make a massive, positive impact on society. Here, then, are some of the main reasons why the arts should be supported:
1. They strengthen the economy:
While also increasing tourism, arts and cultural goods add billions to the economy and support millions of jobs.
2. Arts improve wellbeing:
Studies have found that art is uplifting and creates positive experiences. If you partake in the arts, doesn’t it make you feel happier?
3. Communities are unified:
The arts can help people to better understand other cultures. They bring communities together, regardless of age, race and gender.
4. Participation in the arts improves academic performance:
Students engaged in arts tend to have better academic results as well as lower drop-out rates. We must always remember that the arts are an essential part of a well-rounded education.
5. Arts programmes can help us to provide better healthcare:
More and more healthcare providers are implementing arts programs for patients, families and even staff members. The healing benefits of these programs are finally being acknowledged!
6. The arts have a highly beneficial social impact:
Researchers have found that a high concentration of the arts in an area is directly linked to improved social cohesion, greater civic engagement and lower poverty rates.
7. The arts allow like-minded, creative individuals to meet and connect:
By enabling people to share experiences at art shows, live performances, music or drama clubs and elsewhere, the arts provide not only entertainment but also unique opportunities for positive connection with other arts enthusiasts.
8. Participation in the arts sparks creativity and innovation:
Nowadays, business leaders are increasingly looking for creativity as a key attribute in their staff. There is a growing acknowledgment that thinking creatively and outside the box is the very foundation of the kind of innovation that drives business forward.
9. The arts can promote improved mental health:
Have you heard of art therapy? Many different kinds of art-related therapy are now available. Among these is drama therapy, which has been found to be effective in treating insomnia, PTSD and other emotional ailments.
10. Let’s end with the most obvious benefit of all. The arts are fun!:
Visit a gallery or a museum, watch a dance show, see a play or read a book. The arts offer endless opportunities for enjoyment, which – needless to say – is important in itself.
Imagine escaping the hustle and bustle of city life and sailing off to a stunning island that’s also a hive of art activity – in just 10 minutes. Well, I’ve discovered that if you live in New York, you can do just that! Governors Island is a former military base and a national park that has been transformed into a cultural destination. All it takes is a short hop on a ferry to get to this picturesque art and architecture hub where you will find a host of art galleries and coffee shops – always an excellent combination!
Historical Structures Transformed into Contemporary Masterpieces
My first stop was Nolan Park. Here I happened upon a timeworn stone chapel – Chapel of St. Cornelius the Centurion. Upon closer inspection, the chapel was so much more than met the eye. Inside I was delightfully confronted by a wave of black and white disks suspended from the ceiling. Named ‘The Eclipse’, the installation was designed by Jacob Hashimoto, a New York City artist. I learned that it was an adaptation of an installation that featured in the 57th International Art Exhibition in Venice. I was soon lucky enough to spot another one of Hashimoto’s pieces – this time in Liggett Arch, a former infantry housing space. Entitled ‘Never Comes Tomorrow’, the installation consists of decorated wooden cubes floating above the deep passageway of the arch, introduced by a colourful metal vortex.
The Joy of Finding Art in Unexpected Places
I Was Wandering, But I Wasn’t Lost
As I continued meandering through the streets of Governors Island, I realized how effective public art hidden in plain sight is. I was inspired to imagine how it can be used to celebrate and encourage creative collaboration between an areas’ historical, geographical and architectural treasures. Can you imagine the urban fabric of every city transformed into a treasure trove of art and culture? I certainly can.