The Future is Female shows little sign of change

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Robin Laurence for the Georgia Straight: The Future Is Female is an unsettling exhibition. Vancouver painter Angela Grossmann took the show’s title from a button she found in a junk shop in the mid-1980s. Guest essayist Danielle Egan describes that long-ago button as both “a brazen declaration” and “an abandoned relic of second-wave feminism”.

Relic, indeed. Nearly four decades after women marched in the streets demanding equality, the political and economic landscape shows little sign of change. White men in grey suits still dominate the summits and boardrooms of the world’s prosperous nations, right-wing male politicians still want control over women’s bodies, and advertising still brainwashes girls and women with impossible images of “beauty”. Sigh.

In her mixed-media collages and oil paintings on paper and Mylar, Grossmann focuses on the female form to address what she tells Egan are the “very unpleasant ways” women are “being watched and objectified”. In the collages, particularly, she cuts, tears, and reassembles different photographic images of women, juxtaposing different notions of female beauty, past and present. Most of the images she employs are of the found variety, photocopied and enlarged in black and white before being worked into collage form and embellished with expressive streaks of paint. An example is Girl Leaning, in which a blond nude with face averted is augmented with a man’s forearm and a cut-out bit of frumpy cotton panty that serves as a kind of belt across her middle, exposing her naked bum and thighs. In Black, White and Blue, executed on a wonderful piece of wrinkled, stained, and torn paper, the politics of representation are folded into an image of a young woman walking barefoot on a beach.

Read more on the Georgia Straight.