17 December, 2006

Australian Women Modernists

Modern Australian Women: paintings & prints 1925-1945 and In Context: Australian Women Modernists
Art Gallery of South Australia 24 November 2000 - 25 February 2001

The show's format contributed to my sense of d←ja vu, evoking the period of the 1970s when the shift of women's art from museum basements to gallery walls was accompanied by the shock of discovery. During this period of excavation and reclamation the survey style of exhibition was necessary - but is it still relevant a quarter of a century later? Since then women artists have been included in major surveys of Australian art, theme-based shows have been devoted to their work and key artists granted solo or retrospective exhibitions. Women modernists, in particular, have benefited from ongoing critical attention, either as the subject of monographs and/or contextualised within academic investigations of modernity and femininity.

This exhibition with its inclusion of a wide range of artists and art works unified only by gender, begs comparison with the 1975 exhibition Australian Women Artists 1840-1940 curated by Janine Burke. Significantly, the question of relevance finds a response in the quote from Burke that introduces the catalogue essay for Modern Australian Women:

"And it is in the wider world I wish to see women artists play their part. For that to continue to happen, we must tell stories, often the same story, over and over, so that it is not lost or forgotten, so that it retains potency, truth and relevance. "
(Burke quoted in Hylton, 2000, p. 15)


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