New Exhibit ‘Defining Form’ Explores Themes Of Feminism, Gender Identity & Politics Through Art

Jennifer Dwyer, Kelsey Bennett, Zac Hacmon – DEFINING FORM Exhibit Artwork, The Untitled Space Gallery, New York – July 11, 2018

There is so much going on in the country right now politically, it can be hard to keep track of the onslaught of terrible news and figure out a way to process what is happening. An art gallery that has become adept at taking the collective outrage and using it as fuel for creativity is Untitled Space in New York City. We have written about a number of their group exhibits in the part, most notably the shows created in the wake of Trump becoming president where a number of artists channeled their outrage into art that speaks volumes and challenges perspectives.

This summer the gallery is back with another exhibit titled Defining Form, a group exhibition of sculpture focusing on themes of feminism, gender identity and politics. The show takes a comprehensive look at the manifestations of contemporary sculpture today, engaging a dialogue of the narratives resonating amongst sculptors through works in mediums such as metal, stone, clay, wood, glass, textiles, recycled and repurposed materials, as well as mixed media.

With figurative and abstract work from over 50 established and emerging artists, the exhibit also shows the impact of contemporary culture on the evolving art world, and how it is used to make statements and comment on pop culture topics. It has transcended from the conventional portrait to works that challenge the status quo, address gender identity and racial stereotypes, LGBTQ ideologies and queer constructs, explore themes of the resistance movement as well as progressive feminist narratives and activism.

Whitney Vangrin, Storm Ascher, Rebecca Goyette – DEFINING FORM Exhibit Artwork, The Untitled Space Gallery, New York – July 11, 2018

Untitled Space curator and artist herself Indira Cesarine invited artists of all genders and reviewed more than 600 works in consideration for the final Defining Form collection. The exhibit runs from July 11 to August 1, 2018.

“DEFINING FORM artists defy stereotypes with inventive works that tackle contemporary culture. Traditionally highly male dominated, I was inspired by the new wave of female sculptors making their mark with works engaging feminist narratives,” she said in a press statement.

We wanted to learn more about the significance of this exhibit and how the artists are challenging societal norms with their work. Indira says she was looking for artists that had a particular passion for using their work as political messaging.

I wanted DEFINING FORM to focus on contemporary narratives in sculpture, with an emphasis on new trends in the art form. I felt this was a perfect show to have an open call for artists, so I could not only discover new talent, and also have the opportunity to review works by a wide variety of artists and take into consideration new themes and dialogues being addressed with their works. There was just an incredible amount of artists focusing on political messages in their works, with a wide variety of feminist narratives and addressing themes revolving around gender identity, equal rights, LGBTQ ideologies, human rights and activism. It wasn’t necessary planned to be a politically themed exhibit, although based on the artwork presented, artists are heavily inspired by this type of subject matter right now,” she told us in an email.

Kate Hush, Jonathan Rosen, Leah Gonzales – DEFINING FORM Exhibit Artwork, The Untitled Space Gallery, New York – July 11, 2018

Indira also went on to talk about about how art challenges stereotypical notions of gender identity in the way that a specific work being created doesn’t have to conform to societal expectations of that gender.

“Some artists directly address gender identity in the creation of their works and talk about it as a point of departure or inspiration for their entire body of work. Others challenge these notions more indirectly. We have several male artists in the show for example that worked with color palettes and materials that from a “gender stereotyping” perspective many would consider rather “feminine” choices… such as Zac Hacmon’s work “Destined” that is made out of pastel pink ceramic tiles that you may see in a woman’s spa, or Jonathan Rosen’s work, ‘PERFECT (I WANT)’ which is a 6 foot collage made entirely out of barbie dolls, spelling out the words, ‘I WANT TO BE PERFECT’,” she says.

The artists choices of materials and colors are also an act of non-conformity. Artist Ann Lewis shows this in her work titled “Define Progress,” which includes a performance video of herself smashing a pristine white kitchen with a sledgehammer.

“This work communicates on various levels – the artist considers it a statement on “gentrification, corporatization, and displacement of our communities”, although one could immediately also put it in context of women’s history and the kitchen as being the center of domesticity representing a woman’s place in the home. Seeing a woman destroy a kitchen with a sledgehammer becomes a political act that confronts and challenges stereotypes of gender identity whether the artist intended it to have that message or not,” said Indira.

As for exploring feminist themes at a point in our current political culture, Indira says we are living in a state of emergency, where standing up for women’s rights is absolutely crucial.

Indira Cesarine, Tatyana Murray, Roxi Marsen –
DEFINING FORM Exhibit Artwork, The Untitled Space Gallery, New York – July 11, 2018

“Considering what is going on right now politically and how that is affecting human rights in this country as well as the situation with the Supreme Court (and the implications of Trump’s impending appointee), with laws on reproductive rights and equality at risk – it is on everyone’s minds. Artists are a reflection of culture, a mirror of society, and right now these themes are some of the most prevalent issues we are facing,” she said.

It’s encouraging to see art galleries like Untitled Space not only promoting unique art work, but also artists that have something important to say that may be excluded from other spaces in the art world.

“When I launched The Untitled Space my mission was to create a platform for female artists, as the art market is so heavily male dominated. Aside from non-profits, there really weren’t any art galleries in NY that specifically focused on feminist art. I felt there was a huge gap for works that address feminist narratives. After the election of Trump, I definitely think there was a turning point. With international initiatives such as the Women’s March, people finally understood the importance of feminism and gender equality. I think it’s also really important to be inclusive. The Untitled Space exhibits works by artists of all genders,” she said.

To see the full list of artists and to learn more about Untitled Space and the Defining Form exhibit, visit the website and mark it in your calendar as a “must see” on your summer to-do list.

Meegan Barnes, Sophia Wallace, Jasmine Murrell – DEFINING FORM Exhibit Artwork, The Untitled Space Gallery, New York – July 11, 2018

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