Artist Nancy White emailed me a link to a New York Times article that investigated how women were not represented during the 1958-1968 Pop Art Movement. The first sentence by art critic Ken Johnson asks: “Why have there been no great female Pop artists?” He is referring to Sid Sachs’s essay that paraphrases Linda Nochlin’s essay “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” Mr. Sachs wrote the essay for a show titled Seductive Subversion at the Brooklyn Museum featuring female artists.
Sachs breaks down his question to three parts. Did women not do powerful imagery like their male Pop Art counterparts? If not, why? If there were great Pop Art women artists, who were they and why weren’t they recognized? Sachs also investigates what it means to be a “great artist.”
Female artists represented in the show include Rosalyn Drexler, Idelle Weber, Chryssa, Barbo Ostlihn, Dorothy Grebenak, Kay Kurt, Vija Celmins, Yayoi Kusama, May Wilson, May Stevens, Marjoie Strider, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Patty Mucha.
Sachs states during that time in history, women would run into “the beauty trap.” Johnson: “Women who were young and pretty could hang out with the boys, but few of them would be taken seriously as artists.”
The title of the show, Seductive Subversion, plays with double meanings. Johnson: “Ostensibly it describes works that smuggle social critique under appealing aesthetic cover. But it also implies an old idea about what members of the so-called weaker sex must do to get what they want: use their charms and wiles to put men off their guard. In most parts of the world, open rebellion is still not an option for women.”
The art world is better for women today but by how much? Will women artists be known as “great”? To me, I encounter “great” women artists every day. So yes, that day is today and the secret is slowing getting out.