The Easel

14th May 2019

How sex and power collude: the uncompromising art of Nancy Spero

Its easy to see why Spero got angry. The 1960’s New York art scene was ruled by male abstractionists unimpressed by female artists and hostile to figuration. Undeterred, she developed a delicate frieze-like style that has deeply influenced today’s design vernacular. Spero illuminated how the world looks from a female perspective and depicted “woman as protagonist”.

Nari Ward

In the 1990’s Ward made art using stuff found on the streets of his Harlem neighbourhood. His acclaimed work embodied “the accidental aesthetics of street life” and was, of course, political. Harlem is now gentrifying. Ward’s work is perhaps also changing, less immediately political, more aimed at where “politics and poetics find common purpose”.

Garry Winogrand and Jeff Walls: photography in two phases

Winogrand, “the all time champion of street photography” captured telling moments in real life. Wall, and others from the next generation, mostly use actors and props to create staged images. What accounts for this shift? Even though society is awash with personal data the writer thinks it is about privacy: society no longer tolerates the “impugnity” of the street photographer.

How T.C. Cannon and his contemporaries changed Native American art

The marginalizing of indigenous art is all too familiar. But sometimes an artist uses contemporary art tools to tell indigenous stories afresh. Cannon is one such case. Notably, he discarded aesthetically conservative Native imagery, instead using garish, Pop-like colours. All the better, presumably, to show the complexities of native American identity, “people getting by in the modern world”.

7th May 2019

At 84, Sheila Hicks Is Still Making Defiant, Honest Art

A bumpy interview. Hicks likes her tapestries and wall hangings big. Sadly, they are sometimes thrown out when foyers get a make-over. Hicks is unfazed by the implied lack of recognition of her art. Of her piece shown at the last Venice Biennale: “The idea of its monumentality is to envelop you … you’re not thinking about the grains of the sugar. You’re into a very big meringue”. A better, older interview is here.

Devan Shimoyama’s Vision of a Dazzling Black Future

A review, dense in parts, but worth it because of the artist. At just 30, yet already with two solo shows, Shimoyama is perhaps a soon-to-be big name. A series of works, set in barbershops, explores “queerness and blackness”. Not all see these as explicitly political images. What is plain, though, is Shimoyama’s “impulse to complicate conventional notions of masculinity”.