"Judith Slaying Holofernes" by Imri Sandström, 2010

Since 2016, Masp has been articulating its programming around “Stories”, illuminating in this process complex relationships between art and historically neglected social segments. Each year, a theme – such as Stories of Sexuality e Afro-Atlantic Stories – guides the exhibitions and activities organized by the museum. Now it's the women's turn. Rethinking the relationship between them and the visual arts, shedding light on the unequal structure of the artistic production system, is something urgent, necessary and that can be done from a multiple approach, as shown by the broad strategy adopted by the museum, which involves debate cycles, monographic exhibitions of important artists of the XNUMXth century and printed publications. In this process, the work of designing and carrying out curatorial research is of fundamental importance. Due to the volume of material and the complexity of the theme, the great show of the year was divided into two extensive and different, but complementary, montages. Women's Stories: Artists to 1900 e Feminist Stories: Artists after 2000 they are independent but integrated faces of a strategy of mapping the plastic creation of authors in different historical moments.

The first of the exhibitions looks to the past, revealing the perverse process of erasure to which women painters have been subjected over the centuries, having been relegated to a position of inferiority in the international art scene, despite having a production capable of rivaling in terms of equality with their male peers. The second focuses on the current moment, shows the strategies and struggles of the authors to produce an art capable of dealing with central issues in the contemporary world.

women's stories, which occupies the first floor of the museum, brings together almost 90 works, by 50 authors, made between the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries. The triple curatorship was in charge of Julia Bryan-Wilson, Lilia Schwarcz and Mariana Leme. The ensemble reveals an erudition and technical virtuoso that clashes directly with the concrete data that attest to the marginal role assigned to women in the history of art, such as, for example, the fact that most of the canvases come from private collections (only one of the twelve paintings from the first room, dedicated to the XNUMXth century, belongs to a museum), the disappearance of a significant portion of the work of these authors (De Cornelia van der Mijn, for example, there is only one identified work) and the low visibility of this production.

This impressive set was mined in several collections around the world and required a series of displacements, since most of the works were kept in technical reserves and are not yet available on websites and online collections. The Masp collection itself is an interesting example: from the period covered by the exhibition (before 1900), the museum has only three works by female authors. The situation improves as we enter the 22th century, but in general terms there is still a great underrepresentation, since the female participation in the collection is around XNUMX%.

If, in general, the set is of great interest, the show becomes even more seductive when the visitor looks at the trajectory and production of each of these women. Fascinating stories are represented there, such as that of Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, who achieved exceptional popularity in the XNUMXth century, becoming the first painter of Marie Antoinette, or of Eva Gonzales, the only student, both female and male, accepted by Manet. Interwoven into this rich set of works, revealing both individual talents and the stories and customs of a wide period of time, the exhibition also contemplated a type of art normally associated with the feminine: textile work. The oldest piece of fabric in the show is a pre-Columbian piece and dates from the XNUMXst century. But throughout the show, the public can appreciate embroideries from different times and regions, from the Ottoman Empire to North American quilts (quilt). The contrast between paintings on one side and fabrics and embroidery – traditionally symbols of the feminine – aim to unmask this place of craftsmanship as a place for women and, at the same time, contribute to expanding the idea of ​​art. “This is not about understanding feminism as the search for equality in a system of oppression, but about dissolving these hierarchies. Working on the gender difference is much more than talking about women”, says Mariana Leme.

There is also in the contemporary selection an important presence of textile making. The weave of fabric and embroidery starts to be used as a way of overcoming the barriers, often insidious and masked, imposed by the patriarchy. Carolina Caycedo, for example, embroiders names of women she admires on clothes she collects from close people and turns them into great banners. Also present in the show is the wedding dress created by Daspu with sheets from motels in the red-light district of Rio de Janeiro, on which erotic drawings were printed and which was originally presented at the 27th Bienal de São Paulo.

Feminist Stories: Artists after 2000, which occupies the basement of the museum, brings together works by 30 authors, who began their artistic practices already in this century and who, in a way, incorporate activist practices. These are works that, in general, “work urgently from a feminist perspective”, summarizes Isabelle Rjeille. Productions that touch on burning themes, such as the issue of housing in urban centers, as Virginia de Medeiros does, or the issue of transphobia and the vulnerability of the body, addressed by Lyz Parayzo in the work bixinha, a detachable object that also refers to the Bichos, by Lygia Clark. In other words, they are artists who expand the critical reach of their poetics beyond the issue of gender, showing how the web of invisibility that affects women is usually associated with other forms of exclusion, related to racial, economic and geopolitical issues. “Feminism goes far beyond art,” recalls Isabelle.

Women's Stories Feminist Stories
MASP – Av. Paulista, 1578 – Bela Vista
until November 17


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