The Intersectional Self exhibition at The 8th Floor

Martha Wilson, Thump, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and PPOW Gallery.
Martha Wilson, Thump, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and PPOW Gallery.

The Intersectional Self is an exhibition centered on gender and feminist politics in the age of trans-identity, it is on view  through May 19, 2017.  Featuring the work of Janine Antoni, Andrea Bowers, Patty Chang, Abigail DeVille, Ana Mendieta, Catherine Opie, Adrian Piper, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Cindy Sherman, and Martha Wilson, The Intersectional Self questions how notions of femininity (and alternately, masculinity) have shifted in the context of newly defined gender identities, and how family structures have been subsequently reimagined. Ultimately, The Intersectional Self examines how feminism in its many forms has changed the world as we know it.

Sculpture and video works by Abigail DeVille and Andrea Bowers highlight inequities based on racial, economic, gender, and immigrant identities that pervade society. Using found objects and materials, DeVille explains that her process of assemblage is an exercise in acknowledgement. Of her works she says, “I think of trash as…the archeological evidence of the present moment. History is permeating everything, whether you know it or not.” Also serving as a historical record is Bowers’ Roundtable Discussion (2016) that features Patrisse Cullers (one of the founders of Black Lives Matter), Jennicet Gutierrez (an undocumented trans-immigrant activist), and CeCe McDonald (a trans-activist who served time in an all-male prison). Together they discuss black liberation, incarceration, gender, and immigration.

Ana Mendieta’s identification as a Latina and Third World feminist is not only linked to her experience of migrating from Cuba to the United States in Operation Peter Pan, but also her studies at the University of Iowa, a place not associated with diversity in the early 1970s. Her Untitled (Facial Hair Transplants), 1972, coincides with Adrian Piper’s Mythic Being (1972-75) and Martha Wilson’s Posturing series (1972-73). Wilson and Piper use performative embodiment to explore ideas of otherness and manipulate masculinity, drawing attention to the inequities that women artists faced at the time these works were produced. Through photography, interventions, and video, Mendieta, Wilson, and Piper hone in on the gestures of drag and persona-play performances to show the multiplicity of identities possible at any given moment, and in any given woman.

The changing and complicated nature of family is unpacked by Janine Antoni, Catherine Opie, and Patty Chang. Antoni’s Mom and Dad (1994) depicts her parents who have been made-up to look like one another, taking on the other’s gender. Antoni describes the piece as a self-portrait, explaining “I was arriving at was half-mom, half-dad creature, but to create this composite, I had to reverse our roles in the sense that my parents made me, and now I was remaking them.” Opie’s Self Portrait/Nursing (2004) challenges stereotypes of the butch/femme dichotomy in lesbian culture, in a pictorial format associated with Old Master paintings of Madonna and Child. In her performance video In Love (2001), Patty Chang demonstrates the intimacy implied by the parent-child relationship by staging a gestural embrace that pushes against the audience’s sense of decorum and comfort.

Like the idea of a child as the composite of two parents, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge has merged male and female genders into one pandrogynous self. While Cindy Sherman’s experiments in multiple personalities express the nuanced and continuously shifting versions of self, Genesis’ collaboration with Lady Jaye has been a long-term evolution that ultimately results in the fusing of gender binaries into one self-determined being. Sherman and Genesis use their bodies as the site of their artistic production; Sherman’s characterizations eclipse her own persona as artist, and Genesis have dissolved two into one, embodying the lived experience of their artwork. According to Genesis, “Everything is mutable. Names can be changed, bodies can be adjusted, imagery can be adjusted to tell or hide a story.”