Women Artists Deconstruct Domesticity in Women House

Femme Maison
Louise Bourgeois, Femme Maison, 1994; White marble, 5 x 12 1/2 x 2 3/4 in.; Collection of Louise Bourgeois Trust; Art © The Easton Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, Photo by Christopher Burke

WASHINGTON—Women House, a provocative new exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), challenges traditional ideas about gender and domesticity. On view March 9–May 28, 2018, the exhibition presents work by 36 global artists, including Louise Bourgeois, Judy Chicago, Mona Hatoum, Zanele Muholi, Leticia Parente, Martha Rosler, Miriam Schapiro, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, Rachel Whiteread and Francesca Woodman. NMWA is the only U.S. venue for the exhibition, which is organized by La Monnaie de Paris.

Women House forms a sequel to the famous project Womanhouse, developed in 1972 by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro. The artists and their students at the California Institute of the Arts transformed a dilapidated Hollywood mansion with works that disrupted conventional ideas about the home as a feminine space. It attracted thousands of visitors and national media attention. A landmark exhibition in art history, Womanhouse was the first female-centered art installation to appear in the Western world.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #84, 1978; Gelatin silver print, 13 1/2 x 16 1/8 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

Continuing the dialogue with their artistic foremothers of the 1970s, the contemporary artists in Women House recast conventional ideas about women through photography, sculpture, installation and video. Organized across eight themes, Women House emphasizes the plurality of women’s views on the home from Desperate Housewives to Mobile Homes.

Camille Morineau, director of exhibitions and collections at La Monnaie de Paris who curated Women House with Lucia Pesapane, said, “This exhibition is partially a political gesture. I am hoping that in ten years the level of information about women artists will be the same as for male artists.”

“Women House shows the enormous contributions of women artists to a topic that has received surprisingly little scholarly attention since 1972,” said NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling, “It is about traditional gender roles in our society, and demonstrates how women artists have challenged and revised our ideas about women, home and hearth.”

Laurie Simmons, Walking House, 1989; Chromogenic print, 64 x 46 in.; Collection of Dr. Dana Beth Ardi; Photo courtesy of the artist and Salon 94, New York

The artists in Women House are Helena Almeida (b. 1934), Nazgol Ansarinia (b. 1979), Monica Bonvicini (b. 1965), Louise Bourgeois (b. 1911; d. 2010), Heidi Bucher (b. 1926; d. 1993), Claude Cahun (b. 1894; d. 1954), Pia Camil (b. 1980), Judy Chicago (b. 1939), Johanna Demetrakas (b. 1937), Lili Dujourie (b. 1941), Valie Export (b. 1940), Lucy Gunning (b. 1964), Mona Hatoum (b. 1952), Birgit Jürgenssen (b. 1949; d. 2003), Kirsten Justesen (b. 1943), Karin Mack (b. 1940), Isa Melsheimer (b. 1968), Zanele Muholi (b. 1972), Lucy Orta (b. 1966), Leticia Parente (b. 1930; d. 1991), Sheila Pepe (b. 1959), Martha Rosler (b. 1943), Elsa Sahal (b. 1975), Niki de Saint Phalle (b. 1920; d. 2002), Miriam Schapiro (b. 1923; d. 2015), Anne-Marie Schneider (b. 1962), Lydia Schouten (b. 1948), Cindy Sherman (b. 1954), Laurie Simmons (b. 1949), Penny Slinger (b. 1947), Laure Tixier (b. 1972), Ana Vieira (b. 1940; d. 2016), Rachel Whiteread (b. 1963), Sue Williamson (b. 1941), Francesca Woodman (b. 1958; d. 1981) and Nil Yalter (b. 1938).

Laurie Simmons, Woman Opening Refrigerator/Milk in the Middle, 1978; Cibachrome print, 3 1/2 x 5 in.; Art and photo courtesy of the artist and Salon 94, New York

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