The American Nancy Spero (1926-2009) is considered one of the first great artists to significantly promote feminist and activist movement. She has been a tireless woman who through a creative work composed of essential signs, endowed with semantic power and compositional equilibrium, has manifested and untiringly narrated the iconographic and symbolic female dimension in contemporary society.
The Museo Tamayo in Mexico City dedicates to her an exhibition with the iconic title “Paper Mirror”. The artist’s career develops between New York and Paris, the city that at the end of the fifties is witnessing the genesis of her more mature works, the so-called Black Paintings. By choosing paper as a material support, after a first creative moment that favours oil painting on canvas, Spero develops series that denounce social and political issues in which it is frequent finding parallelisms with the Antonin Artaud’s literary dimension. Precisely, in the Codex Artaud series related to the seventies, the artist combines Artaud’s references with painted images and collages alluding to the Egyptian hieroglyphic signs.
This is an art that places female figure at the very heart of a gentle transfiguration made of gestures and movements, concepts which alluding to the dimensions of myth, folklore and to the past of archaic societies in which that same concept of “society” has been generated. Among these, the two-dimensional figurative world of archaic and classical Greece with all its sacredness, especially related to the iconographic vocabulary that is easy to find in the ceramics production, prevails in its creations. It is no coincidence at all.
It is crucial to talk about democracy, social issues, politics, equality and equal rights through the eloquent iconic territory of art. Nancy Spero is one of those artists who courageously dedicate their existence to a cause of collective interest, aesthetically transfigured into series with a great impact not only in figurative but also ideological terms. These are works characterized by a dynamism and vivid chromaticity, where the reference to the past is visible but reflected in a contemporary, immediate and absolutely elegant language. The reference to myth, prehistoric and archaic plastic, to the Egyptian world, especially to the iconography of Nut, goddess of the sky, is particularly strong. Titles also refer to this symbolic and cosmogonic dimension.
The tragic and the sacred, the experience of biographic as well as collective pain, literature and imagination, the struggle for equality, the disdain for military interventions, represent elements that clearly identify a stylistically and technically coherent production. They are mirrors made of paper that record interesting compositions by decoding and amplifying a universal message, giving back to the observer a reality that has always been determining the functioning of social mechanisms, asking for a revolution that can reverse equilibrium, pushing us to explore and redefine the ecosystem of perceptions about the equality between male and female polarities.
The exhibition will be open until February 2019 in the spaces of the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City.
Nancy Spero, The Goddess Nut II, 1990. Foto: Michael Bodycomb. Cortesía Galerie Lelong & Co. © The Nancy Spero and Leon Golub Foundation for the Arts / VAGA at ARS, NY
Nancy Spero, Sky Goddess and Snakes, 1981. Foto: Wilfied Petzi. Cortesía Barbara Gross Galerie, Múnich. © The Nancy Spero and Leon Golub Foundation for the Arts / VAGA at ARS, NY
Nancy Spero, Female Symbols I, 1981. Foto: David Reynolds. Cortesía Estado de Nancy Spero y Barbara Gross Galerie, Múnich. © The Nancy Spero and Leon Golub Foundation for the Arts / VAGA at ARS, NY
Giuliana Schiavone. Art critic and curator based in Italy and Mexico dedicated to the communication and teaching of visual arts. Active contributor to national and international art and fashion magazines as well as promotion of contemporary art. Actively working for cultural and exhibition projects. Graduated as Art Historian and Jazz Musician with a Master in Art Curatorship following an interdisciplinary vision of artistic and aesthetic phenomenons.