As unfashionable as it may be to point out gender inequality in this “post-feminist” age, there is still evidence of a disparity in the amount of attention and prestige given to artists according to their gender.
The recent sculpture show Modern British Sculpture at the Royal Academy, included work by five times as many male as female sculptors. In Art spaces so dominated by men, it is difficult to imagine how one could evaluate women’s contribution when it is apparently so scarce. Women Make Sculpture at Pangolin London fills this gap by focusing on contemporary working female artists, giving them much-needed visibility and allowing us a better chance to judge women’s contribution to sculpture today.
Sarah Lucas’ Hard NUD takes concrete – associated with the huge and industrial – and makes it small and sensual with interlocking, sinuous forms, which have no discernible beginning or end.
…bodily fluids spilling forth from various orifices…
There are also larger pieces: dominating one corner of the room is the huge bronze metalwork Mountain by Rose Gibbs. The sculpture seems to give birth to the forms emerging from its rough surface – small naked women who freely wander about their abode with bodily fluids spilling forth from various orifices amongst tiny phalluses that sprout from the metal like plants. The materiality of this piece amusingly contradicts its irreverent gender-based subject matter.
Collateral by Deborah van de Beek also works with bronze in an unexpected way, but in contrast she uses it to bring out attitudes towards death and conflict. The bronze recalls war memorial sculpture and weaponry: a large animal skull contains teeth made of bullet shells and a cradled child along its jaw-line, reminding us of the concomitant damage of war.
…it is perhaps evident that there is no “typical” women’s sculpture.
An Intriguing Show
An intriguing show, Women Make Sculpture effectively displays the multiplicity of materials, forms, and ideas that are used by contemporary female artists. The question of whether gender affects sculpture and if women’s sculpture is truly noteworthy are left open for the spectator to decide.
From the varied selection of works – abstract and figurative, bronze and concrete, war and the body – it is perhaps evident that there is no “typical” women’s sculpture. The pieces are thought provoking and visually arresting, demonstrating that women’s sculpture is indeed worthy of recognition.
The exhibition runs until 18 June.
Admission is free.