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Lipstick, Rouge And Vaginas: The Hammer’s Radical Women

Radical Women: Latin American Art 1960-1985

The taboo of the female body is ever present in the Hammer’s exhibition Radical Women: Latin American Art 1960-1985. There is no replacement for going to an exhibition in person. The interaction with art is necessary for the emotional impact. In this case, the exhibition is full of powerful images related to women over the course of history. The first visual impact is outside the main gallery where a large mural board filled with social and political data on women related by country, including the United States, is placed. The timelines start with the suffragettes, with women getting the vote in each country.

“This is an important exhibition that has given visibility to some women who have been forgotten in some cases, and in others have become reknowned artists,” said Beatriz Cortez in a curated lead walk-through of the exhibition.

Inside one of the main the galleries the visual impact deepened. The eye first catches a woman’s mustached lipstick covered mouth seen from a close up angle on camera saying mute words. Next the eye takes in a painting of a woman’s legs spread open before a TV screen in the middle of the night. Then a curiously red silk covered device in the shape of a human female form vibrates, quite sexual in its invitation to peek under, which of course one doesn’t. All of these are your first emotional impressions of the artists of the time.

These were all female artists of Latino heritage, some in the United States, others in Latin America, who worked during this key period of contemporary art history. Fifteen countries are represented in this exhibition by 120 artists and collectives, with more than 280 works of photography, video and other experimental mediums. Many of these artists worked under political oppression. Their work cut into the movement against political and social repression of the female body that overshadowed women in Latin America and the United States between 1960 -1985. This exhibition constitutes the first genealogy of feminist and radical art practices in Latin America and their influence internationally.

The exhibition is spread out over four main galleries. In another of these large galleries, a video of a woman being enclosed in a clay vat then being reborn is on display. This is the work of Celeida Tostes (Brazilian, 1929 – 1995) called Passagem (Passages) from 1979. It is a photo performance of 21 projected photographs of her encapsulation and rebirth from this vat. She covers her nude body in wet clay with the help of two female assistants and climbs inside the enormous vat of unbaked clay, suggestive of both an indigenous funerary urn and a womb. The vat was sealed and the artist remained inside for a time. She then knocked on its wall to break it and fell to the floor. The performance was at the time photographed by Henry Stahl.

“Passages was an attempt to return to the womb of a mother she never knew,” Tostes said of her performance.

Video: Passages (1979) by Celeida Tostes


The Radical Woman Curator Walk-Through will be held Sunday, September 24 at 2 p.m. The Hammer Museum is located at 10899 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024.


Related programs to this exhibition will be held as follows:

Latinas Out Loud: Pa’rriba! And Ayer Es Hoy held Friday September 22 and Thursday November 2, 7-11 p.m.

Voices Of The Xtabay: A Tribute To Yma Sumac held Saturday October 7 at 7:30 p.m.


Screening and Hammer Forum:

No Mas Bebes held Tuesday October 24, at 7:30 p.m.

Forced Sterilization: Then And Now held Sunday October 29 at 2 p.m.


Conversations at the Hammers

Escensa Latinas: Changing The Narrative held Sunday November at 3 p.m.

Astrid Hadad: (De)Constructing Mexicandad held Wednesday November 29 at 7:30 p.m.



Topanga Journal
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