Yesterday evening my husband and I went to the Pomona College Museum of Art. Conveniently for us, the museum stays open until 11pm every Thursday for Art After Hours. PCMoA has three shows up currently: a selection of Brenna Youngblood's abstract paintings from last year, a selection of the Guerrilla Girls' witty and pointed posters, and the very poetic work of Italian poet, writer, artist Mirella Bentivoglio.
I felt that Youngblood's paintings were hung too closely together, and didn't have as interesting or varied of surfaces as I expected after reading the wall-text extolling her process. It was also a little bit out of kilter with the evident connection between the Bentivolgio and the Guerrilla Girls shows, with their common emphasis on the relationship between word and image, as well as exploring what it is to be female historically and currently. It was disheartening to read the updated versions of the Guerrilla Girl posters from the 80s and 90s only to find the statistics of female and non-white representation in museums about the same, and in some cases worse. Like feminism in the broader culture, the posters make the same points over and over, because from decade to decade there has been so little change. It was saddening to walk through that hallway, despite the deftly used humor (which had both my husband and I laughing out loud), because each poster is still relevant and applicable today, a quarter century or more after they were made. It left me wondering why it is still so hard for women -- why don't more men support feminism for the sake of their wives, daughters, girlfriends, sisters, aunts, mothers, grandmothers, if not for themselves?
Bentivolgio's work was more wide-ranging than sticking to strictly feminist themes, and yet I found some of her feminine, feminist pieces to be the most memorable to me: the reoccurring image of the egg among stones, the egg made of stone and split into a book, the faces of stone damaged or being unwrapped and excavated, the woman disappearing in the photograph and reappearing behind the curtain, and Bentivolgio herself, present as a shadow, a mask, a name, and as a photograph doubled under the arch of time. It was harder for me to follow the beauty of her concrete poetry since I do not speak Italian, although the wall-text translations helped. But her work with images, books, and stones carry across cultural language barriers quite smoothly, speaking as they do a visual language which I could intuit and understand. Viewing her work left me with a freshened awareness of the uncanny repetition and resemblances of things in nature and culture, past and present, and respect and awe for the ongoing, never-ending connection between things.