The Serpentine Gallery
presents a major UK survey of the work of celebrated American artist, feminist and activist Nancy Spero (1926-2009). On display from March 3 and runs until May 2, 2011.
A feminist pioneer and politically active throughout her life, Spero created work that was often radical, making strong statements against war, violence, male dominance and abuses of power. She lived much of her life in New York City, with her husband and collaborator Leon Golub, creating some of her most powerful works against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. She was a founding member of the first womans cooperative gallery, A.I.R. (Artists in Residence), in SoHo, New York.
Rejecting the dominant post-war movements of formalist Abstraction and Pop Art in the 1950s, Spero developed a more ephemeral and immediate way of working that used painting, collage, printmaking and installation. This practice, which Spero once termed peinture féminine, could, as she saw it, address (and redress) both the struggles of women in patriarchal society and the horrors perennially wrought by American military might.
Spero created a vibrant visual language constructed from the histories and mythologies of past and present cultures that included goddess-protagonists drawn from Greek, Egyptian, Indian and pagan mythologies. In early work, texts as well as images were enlisted from a wide range of sources to express alienation, disempowerment and physical pain.
As the artist herself stated, her work speculates on a sense of possibility and comments upon immediate events, political, sexual and otherwise. Richly layered, vibrantly cinematic and realised on an epic scale, works such as Azur, 2003, are celebratory tours de force of political engagement and dynamic imagination.