NO MAN’S LAND: Optical Illusions

Contemporary large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids are on view in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. The exhibition imagines a visual conversation between 37 women artists from 15 countries exploring images of the female body and the physical process of making. Li Shurui, Karin Davie, and Kerstin Brätsch employ unconventional techniques to create optical illusions.

Li Shurui, I am not ready…, 2013; Acrylic on canvas; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Li Shurui, I am not ready…, 2013; Acrylic on canvas; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

What’s On View?

Li Shurui’s I am not ready…, 2013

Li Shurui (b. 1981, Chongqing, China) uses an airbrush to add vibrant color to canvas to approximate the appearance of LED lighting popular in nightclubs and city settings. She says, “I try to use light and space to capture an atmosphere and state of mind in a way that leave people with a strong emotive impression rather than a concept or idea that must be dealt with logically.”

Working at a large scale, Li creates immersive works that induce hypnotic sensations in the viewer and capture the imagination. In I am not ready…, Li depicts an experience of morphing light that people typically experience only momentarily, when looking closely at the pixels of a digital image.

Karin Davie’s Oh Baby #1 and #2, from the series “Sidewalk,” 1992

“Someone once said to me, ‘Oh, you are that painter who makes the wavy stripe paintings of contorted eyes, lips, cheeks and butts’—they couldn’t have put it better,” says Karin Davie (b. 1965, Toronto). Inspired by postmodern dance, Davie redefines the modernist motif of the painted stripe by inserting references to the body. She says, “Conceptually I wanted to take this modernist ideal of purity, perfection, and dominance and turn it into an image of something more vulnerable, imperfect, and playful.”

Karin Davie, Oh Baby #1 and #2, from the series “Sidewalk,” 1992; Oil on canvas; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Karin Davie, Oh Baby #1 and #2, from the series “Sidewalk,” 1992; Oil on canvas; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Elements of Op art and Pop art can be seen in Davie’s diptych Oh Baby #1 and #2. Seemingly unbroken, two-dimensional lines create a curvilinear illusion, conjuring images of bellies, bottoms, breasts, or lobes. Distinct from the purely retinal or optical experience offered by Op art, Davie’s abstractions allow the viewer to both “see and feel” her painting process.

Kerstin Brätsch, I Want to be Wrong, from the series “Broadwaybratsch/Corporate Abstraction,” 2010; Oil on paper; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Kerstin Brätsch, I Want to be Wrong, from the series “Broadwaybratsch/Corporate Abstraction,” 2010; Oil on paper; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Kerstin Brätsch’s I Want to be Wrong, from the series “Broadwaybratsch/Corporate Abstraction,” 2010

Kerstin Brätsch (b. 1979, Hamburg, Germany) analyzes how paint strokes are simultaneously reflexive and allusive through her abstract paintings. In describing her approach, Brätsch says, “I’m trying to deal with abstract anxiety and to visualize something that is not visual, like radiation or heat.”

I Want to be Wrong contains arcing swaths of color that echo the sweeping motion of the artist’s hand. “The brushstroke becomes a stand-in for its physical process,” she says.

Unconventionally displayed, Brätsch’s paintings are created on pieces of paper that are attached by magnets. To “question the wall itself,” Brätsch leans her frames against the wall to give her art an ephemeral feel.

Visit the museum and explore NO MAN’S LAND, on view through January 8, 2017.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

NO MAN’S LAND: Follow the Threads

Contemporary large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids are on view in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. The exhibition imagines a visual conversation between 37 women artists from 15 countries exploring images of the female body and the physical process of making. Works by Shinique Smith, Sonia Gomes, and Rosemarie Trockel make innovative use of textiles.

Shinique Smith, Menagerie, 2007; Mixed media on canvas; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Shinique Smith, Menagerie, 2007; Mixed media on canvas; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

What’s On View?

Shinique Smith’s Menagerie, 2007

“I like dancing between restraint and chaos,” says Shinique Smith (b. 1971, Baltimore), who collaged secondhand fabric and clothing into this large-scale work along with script-covered papers and photographs. Smith’s complex, yet spontaneous-seeming art is inspired by our culture’s cycle of acquiring and discarding: “I think my work is very American, and the way we consume and cast off is unique to us.” She also cites a New York Times Magazine article that discussed how discarded clothing is baled and traded worldwide.

Collecting textiles from friends, family, thrift stores, and other sources is part of Smith’s creative process. Smith, whose grandmother had a talent for interior design and whose mother is a former fashion editor, taps into her personal associations—popular culture, graffiti and calligraphy, her family, and her hometown of Baltimore—to create eclectic and energetic work.

Sonia Gomes’s Made in America, 2015

Like Smith’s works, expressive hanging sculptures by Sonia Gomes (b. 1948, Caetanópolis, Brazil), use textiles to explore identity and memory. Three of her works are on view—two from a series of pieces titled Made in America, and Tantas Estorias (Many Histories).

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Installation view of Sonia Gomes’s two works from a series titled Made in America (2015)

Gomes creates these sculptures by wrapping, twisting, and stitching found or gifted textiles over wire armatures. Organic shapes evoke organs, outlines, or sacred objects. Gomes’s works are inspired by her family—her father’s family worked in a textile factory, and she was influenced by the traditional dress and rituals of her maternal grandmother, an indigenous spiritual healer and midwife.

Rosemarie Trockel’s untitled wool work, 1990

Textile works by Rosemarie Trockel (b. 1952, Schwerte, West Germany) also reflect the close relationship between her medium and meaning.

Rosemarie Trockel, Untitled, 1990; Wool; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Rosemarie Trockel, Untitled, 1990; Wool; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Featuring repeated patterns stitched by machine, Trockel’s “knitted pictures” are attached to wood frames like those used to stretch paintings on canvas.

Trockel questions the gendered connotations of materials, as well as the distinction between “fine” arts, such as painting, and craft. “I tried to take wool, which was viewed as a woman’s material, out of that context and to rework it in a neutral process of production,” she says. NO MAN’S LAND includes three of her knitted pieces—one with a pattern of skulls, another with stripes, and one that is a large, dark field of color.

Visit the museum and explore NO MAN’S LAND, on view through January 8, 2017.

—Elizabeth Lynch is the editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

NO MAN’S LAND: Re-Think the Nude

Contemporary large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids are on view in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. The exhibition imagines a visual conversation between 37 women artists from 15 countries exploring images of the female body and the physical process of making. Mira Dancy, Isa Genzken, and Mickalene Thomas use images of the female nude in unexpected ways.

Mira Dancy, Street Ofelia (neon blue), 2014; Neon, 60 x 48 in.

Mira Dancy, Street Ofelia (neon blue), 2014; Neon, 60 x 48 in.; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

What’s On View?

Mira Dancy’s Street Ofelia (neon blue), 2014

Mira Dancy (b. 1979, England) says that while her work “revolves around making paintings” her process often “extends into other forms,” including neon, vinyl, Plexiglas, video, and poetry.

In her work, Dancy is interested in creating images of women that “summon the implicit trauma that comes with subjecthood, the gaps that are forged between an inner and outer being.” Dancy’s nudes serve as explorations of broader ideas through the use of the female body. “The bodies I paint are not realistic,” she says. “I often think of them as wearing ‘nude suits.’ Their flesh is silver, blue, green, red, hot pink. The body is not the subject, but the medium.”

Isa Genzken’s Schauspieler, 2013

Isa Genzken, Schauspieler, 2013; Mixed media, 72 1/4 x 18 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.

Isa Genzken, Schauspieler, 2013; Mixed media, 72 1/4 x 18 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Isa Genzken (b. 1948, Bad Oldesloe, Germany) once said, “I want to animate the viewers, hold a mirror up to them.” This attitude is evident in Schauspieler, from a series of life-size mannequins that “appear indistinguishable from those in department store windows,” but are “disrupted by lines of spray paint on their bodies, tape wrapped around their mouths, and other interferences.”

Schauspieler, meaning “actor,” critiques capitalism and commodification of the female body. The figure’s wig, glasses, and drawn markings—evocative of plastic surgery—point to the futility women face in their efforts to conform to an unobtainable physical ideal.

Through the “role reversal” of channeling art-viewers, Genzken challenges the public to think differently about representations of the female body.

Mickalene Thomas’s Whatever You Want, 2004

Mickalene Thomas, Whatever You Want, 2004; Acrylic, rhinestone, and enamel on panel, 48 x 36 in.

Mickalene Thomas, Whatever You Want, 2004; Acrylic, rhinestone, and enamel on panel, 48 x 36 in.; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971, Camden, New Jersey) reproduces her own photographs as paintings with acrylic, enamel, collage, and rhinestones. Drawing inspiration from sources ranging from 19th-century French painting to 1970s Blaxploitation films, Thomas’s work attempts to “inject black women into the art historical canon.”

Whatever You Want features a black female protagonist in a pose referencing the portrayal of white female nudes in the Western painting tradition. Thomas’s figures typically meet the viewer’s gaze “while lounging in outlandishly patterned interiors and exuding an aggressive sexuality.” Their confrontational gazes contain “awareness: they exist, are present, and they are not going to let you go away easily.” By portraying “real women with their own unique history, beauty, and background,” Thomas broadens the representations of black women in art.

Reserve your spot to meet artist Mira Dancy at NMWA on December 13, 2016 for a special in-gallery conversation. Visit the museum and explore NO MAN’S LAND, on view through January 8, 2017.

—Kait Gilioli was the summer 2016 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Happiest Hours: “Artists in Conversation” Invite You to Eat, Drink, and Connect

How can NMWA offer a distinctive type of artist talk program, one that engages attendees, activates artwork, and highlights the personalities of the guest speakers? The new “Artists in Conversation” program engages small audiences in the galleries during intimate group happy hour events.

Artists in Conversation participants socialize over happy hour in the galleries; Photo: Francesca Rudolph, NMWA

Artists in Conversation participants socialize over happy hour in the galleries; Photo: Francisca Rudolph, NMWA

The museum invited artists Rozeal, Analia Saban, Mira Dancy, and Suzanne McClelland for a series of three “Artists in Conversation” programs highlighting their respective works featured in the contemporary exhibition NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. In this new format, participants have time to explore the galleries, look closely at the artists’ works, enjoy food and drink, and engage in conversations with the artists and fellow attendees.

On October 18, 2016, Rozeal captivated participants in a discussion of her work Sacrifice #2: it has to last (after Yoshitoshi’s “Drowsy: the appearance of a harlot of the Meiji era). Rozeal explored the influence of American hip-hop culture clichés on Japanese culture, namely ganguro, a sub-culture fascinated with dark tans and thickly applied contrasting makeup.

Rozeal with one of her works in NO MAN’S LAND, Photo: Francesca Rudolph, NMWA

Rozeal with one of her works in NO MAN’S LAND, Photo: Francisca Rudolph, NMWA

Rozeal portrays her protagonists with natural hairstyles such as dreadlocks, knots, or Afros, whereas her villains appear more sexualized, with intricate weaves and extravagant embellishments. Brown’s sources span the gamut—from 19th century Japanese woodblock print techniques and masters to popular culture. She cited J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as an inspiration for her own use of elaborate details in her work. Influenced by comedians like Bernie Mac and Rob Schneider’s Deuce Bigalow character, Rozeal often incorporates Easter Eggs in the form of hidden, humorous references. She revealed, “I usually end up laughing quite a bit when I make these paintings.”

Analia Saban shares her work with attendees; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

Analia Saban shares her work with attendees; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

On November 11, 2016, Analia Saban introduced her works Acrylic in Canvas and Acrylic in Canvas with Ruptures: Grids. “While working on my MFA at the University of California in Los Angeles, I was curious why painting received more attention than sculpture,” explained Saban. By using acrylic and canvas in unexpected ways, she said, “My artwork opens up dialog about the boundaries between these two mediums.” Saban amused attendees with anecdotes about her trial-and-error artistic process. She recounted one night when a sculpture “exploded” and flooded her apartment with acrylic paint.

Join us for the delightful opportunity to talk with not just one—but two—NO MAN’S LAND artists in the same evening. On Tuesday, December 13, 2016, Mira Dancy and Suzanne McClelland will converse with small groups about their respective backgrounds, artistic process, and works. Find out what inspires McClelland’s large abstracted canvases and Dancy’s neon nudes. Reserve your spot today for the upcoming “Artists in Conversation” happy hour at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

—Olivia Lussi is the fall 2016 education intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

NO MAN’S LAND: Charismatic Canvases

Contemporary large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids are on view in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. The exhibition imagines a visual conversation between 37 women artists from 15 countries exploring images of the female body and the physical process of making. Artists Natasja Kensmil, Cecily Brown, and Suzanne McClelland test the expressive boundaries of painting.

Natasja Kensmil, Desperate Land, 2004; Oil on linen; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Natasja Kensmil, Desperate Land, 2004; Oil on linen; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

What’s On View?

Natasja Kensmil’s Desperate Land, 2004

Ominous themes of the human condition and the power of history are on view in painting by Natasja Kensmil (b. 1973, Amsterdam). Her somber colors and craggy brushwork reflect the dark nature of connections between religion, mythology, and power.

Kensmil created a series of work based on the Romanov family. In Desperate Land, she portrays the Russian mystic Rasputin in the center wearing a pointed hood, surrounded by followers. She obscured Rasputin’s features, allowing the scene to stand as an emblem for zealous fraternal organizations. Kensmil’s multilayered painting style evokes shadows and discord.

Cecily Brown, Service de Luxe, 1999

Although paintings by Cecily Brown (b. 1969, London) appear to combine elements of abstract and figurative painting, she says, “I often avoid using the terms figuration and abstraction because I’ve always tried to have it both ways. I want the experience of looking at one of my paintings to be similar to the process of making the painting—you go from the big picture to something very intense and detailed, and then back again.”

Cecily Brown, Service de Luxe, 1999; Oil on linen; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Cecily Brown, Service de Luxe, 1999; Oil on linen; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

In Service de Luxe, Brown depicts a reclining female nude. Through her loose brushwork—which she uses to call attention to the sensuous nature of oil paint itself—forms become imprecise but alluring. She says, “I think it’s almost impossible to not allude to something.”

Suzanne McClelland, Forever, 1991; Acrylic, gesso, and charcoal on canvas; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Suzanne McClelland, Forever, 1991; Acrylic, gesso, and charcoal on canvas; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Suzanne McClelland’s Forever, 1991

“Being trained in both, I have always loved and been attracted to abstraction in music and art,” says Suzanne McClelland (b. 1959, Jacksonville, Florida).

McClelland explores the links between audible language and its written image—in her work, letters curl around to mimic their acoustic form and reflect meaning. Beginning in the 1980s, she says, “I wanted the thoughts or the words that I had in my head, and the sounds that I heard in the city, to be subjects for my painting.”

On depictions of the female body, McClelland says, “It’s been painted and drawn and described and photographed so many times that I don’t feel the need to join in on reclaiming the female body when there’s the voice.”

Visit the museum and explore NO MAN’S LAND, on view through January 8, 2017. Reserve your spot to meet artist Suzanne McClelland at NMWA on December 13, 2016 for a special in-gallery conversation.

—Elizabeth Lynch is the editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

NO MAN’S LAND: Unexpected Materials

Contemporary large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids are on view in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. The exhibition imagines a visual conversation between 37 women artists from 15 countries exploring images of the female body and the physical process of making. Helen Marten and Mary Weatherford evoke meaning by juxtaposing unexpected mediums.

What’s On View?

Helen Marten’s Under blossom: B. uses frenzy, 2014

“A lot of people look at my work and think it’s an amalgam of junk, like a granny’s attic,” says Helen Marten (b. 1985, Macclesfield, England). Yet, “All of this stuff is murderously plotted.”

Helen Marten, Under blossom: B. uses frenzy, 2014; Screen-printed suede, leather, waxed cotton, pressed Formica, ash, cherry, walnut, welded galvanized steel, glazed ceramic, strings, cast bronze and aluminum, and colored pencil on paper under resin; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Helen Marten, Under blossom: B. uses frenzy, 2014; Screen-printed suede, leather, waxed cotton, pressed Formica, ash, cherry, walnut, welded galvanized steel, glazed ceramic, strings, cast bronze and aluminum, and colored pencil on paper under resin; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Marten’s Under blossom: B. uses frenzy includes a list of materials typical of her meticulously handcrafted assemblages: screen-printed suede, leather and waxed cotton, pressed Formica, ash, cherry, walnut, welded galvanized steel, glazed ceramic, strings, cast bronze and aluminum, and colored pencil on paper under resin.

In the center of this work, Marten printed an image of a skull reliquary layered with drawings of hands in positions suggestive of sign language, mudras, and massage. It also incorporates ceramic vessels and cast metal dishes resembling bird bottles and transmitters. Her pictorial puzzles invite the viewer to tease out new and multiple meanings, sparking associations of communication, connection, and discovery.

Mary Weatherford’s past Sunset, 2015

In contrast to Helen Marten’s enigmatic works made of disparate elements, Mary Weatherford (b. 1963, Ojai, California) works with a sparer set of materials—paint and often neon—to create pieces that reference her experiences.

Mary Weatherford, past Sunset, 2015; Flashe and neon on linen; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Mary Weatherford, past Sunset, 2015; Flashe and neon on linen; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Weatherford’s large-scale works are abstracted depictions of places she has seen. past Sunset subtly references landscapes near New York City. She painted with large brushes and sponges to achieve the canvas’s saturated blue-blacks and soft oranges, suggesting a late evening atmosphere.

Describing her use of neon, Weatherford says, “I know if I’m going to put a light on it; I paint it to have something missing . . . I know that the painting is empty and lacking enough that it’s going to need another element. Sometimes I get going, and I think, ‘Wow, that is a painting, and it doesn’t need anything else.’”

Visit the museum and explore NO MAN’S LAND, on view through January 8, 2017.

—Elizabeth Lynch is the editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

NO MAN’S LAND: Fragmented Bodies

Contemporary large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids are on view in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. The exhibition imagines a visual conversation between 37 women artists from 15 countries exploring images of the female body and the physical process of making.

Josephine Meckseper, American Leg, 2010; Mannequin leg, hosiery, glass, and mirror; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Josephine Meckseper, American Leg, 2010; Mannequin leg, hosiery, glass, and mirror; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Josephine Meckseper, Wangechi Mutu, Solange Pessoa, and Marlene Dumas integrate fragmented and constructed bodily forms in their works.

What’s On View?

Josephine Meckseper’s American Leg, 2010

“I see my work as a call for street activism,” says Josephine Meckseper (b. 1964, Lilienthal, Germany). “My aim is to present consumer display systems that have an auto-critique built within.” In her series of sculptures formed from consumer products, Meckseper reflects on the subversive power behind commercialism.

With its mirrored base, American Leg evokes the glamorous presentation of banal objects in retail spaces—while reflecting the legs of visitors standing nearby. This sculpture’s glass vitrine references store-front displays that are often smashed during periods of civil unrest.

Wangechi Mutu’s The Evolution of Mud Mama from Beginning to Start, 2008

Wangechi Mutu (b. 1972, Nairobi) blends watercolor with collaged photo clippings and gold leaf to build biomorphic forms that sometimes merge into female figures. Mutu’s work often celebrates the female body. She says, “Females carry the marks, language, and nuances of their culture more than the male. Anything that is desired or despised is always placed on the female body.” Her constructed bodies often incorporate images that mark war and injury, but the collaged elements in The Evolution of Mud Mama from Beginning to Start depict the natural world, alluding to the Garden of Eden or a mythical, primordial time.

Wangechi Mutu, The Evolution of Mud Mama from Beginning to Start, 2008; Watercolor, gold leaf, and collage on paper; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Wangechi Mutu, The Evolution of Mud Mama from Beginning to Start, 2008; Watercolor, gold leaf, and collage on paper; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Solange Pessoa’s Hammock, 1999–2003

In her large-scale sculptures, Solange Pessoa (b. 1961, Ferros, Brazil) combines elemental materials and abstract shapes to develop a range of organic associations and psychological moods.

Solange Pessoa, Hammock, 1999–2003; Fabric, earth, and sponges; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Solange Pessoa, Hammock, 1999–2003; Fabric, earth, and sponges; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

In Hammock, fabric pouches resemble proliferating biological growths. By suspending the sculpture from two points, Pessoa emphasizes the weight of the pouches’ contents, whether a biological substance or cultural history and meaning. She notes that “physicality,” which she achieves though scale, density, and abundance, is essential to her art.

Marlene Dumas, Oh, Oh, Oh, Not Again, 1996; Ink and metallic acrylic on paper; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Marlene Dumas, Oh, Oh, Oh, Not Again, 1996; Ink and metallic acrylic on paper; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Marlene Dumas’s Oh, Oh, Oh, Not Again, 1996

Marlene Dumas (b. 1953, Cape Town, South Africa) frequently finds inspiration in newspaper and magazine photos. “Yes, I paint portraits and I use the human figure, but actually I want to paint what you cannot see,” says Dumas. “More the spirit of things, or the relationships and the dialogue between them.”

Dumas’s figure in Oh, Oh, Oh, Not Again is arranged for maximum drama against an empty background. In a subdued and eerie palette, the image on the paper seems to appear out of almost nothing. Ink and metallic acrylic bleed together to form a haunting expression.

Visit the museum and explore NO MAN’S LAND, on view through January 8, 2017.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

NO MAN’S LAND: Doubles and Duos

Contemporary large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids are on view in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. The exhibition imagines a visual conversation between 37 women artists from 15 countries exploring images of the female body and the physical process of making.

Hayv Kahraman, Migrant. I, 2009; Oil on panel, 70 x 45 in.; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Hayv Kahraman, Migrant. I, 2009; Oil on panel, 70 x 45 in.; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Hayv Kahraman, Dana Schutz, Nina Chanel Abney, and Kaari Upson use double portraits to explore different concepts.

What’s On View?

Hayv Kahraman’s Migrant. I, 2009

Inspired by Persian miniatures, Renaissance painting, and Japanese woodblock prints, Hayv Kahraman (b. 1981, Baghdad) uses portraiture as “representational activism” to serve as “a catalyst for social change.”

The figures of two women with nooses around their necks are joined in Migrant. I. One reaches down to touch the bound arms of the other, who is blindfolded.

Kahraman’s painting references the “migrant consciousness” and the double identity experienced by immigrants and refugees as they leave their home and struggle to adapt to new surroundings.

Dana Schutz’s Lovers, 2003

Dana Schutz (b. 1976, Livonia, Michigan) creates paintings imbued with vibrant colors and dazzling, faceted shapes. “I don’t want my paintings to be about the physical substance of the paint,” she says. “I think about what I want the image to be.”

Dana Schutz, Lovers, 2003; Oil on canvas; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Dana Schutz, Lovers, 2003; Oil on canvas; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

In Lovers, a couple embraces awkwardly in a secluded spot near a park bench. The seemingly reptilian arm of one of the central figures adds to the zaniness of the scene. Schutz’s narratives are her imaginative responses to riddles, conundrums, and perplexing contemporary events.

Nina Chanel Abney’s Khaaliqua & Jeff, 2007

Nina Chanel Abney, Khaaliqua & Jeff, 2007; Acrylic on canvas; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Nina Chanel Abney, Khaaliqua & Jeff, 2007; Acrylic on canvas; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Nina Chanel Abney (b. 1982, Chicago, Illinois) blends serious political themes together with playful colors. Abney’s work often involves an element of mystery. “I have a definite story in my head,” she says, “but I like to leave it to the viewer to figure it out.”

Khaaliqua & Jeff is a double portrait of a woman wearing yellow rubber gloves holding the arm of a man in front of her. “Everyone in the painting is kind of a suspect,” she says. “I use rubber gloves to symbolize that someone has done dirty work.”

The painting comes from a series of portraits meant to focus on subject’s “inner qualities and personality traits” by giving the impression that the viewer is witnessing an intimate moment.

Kaari Upson’s Kiss 8, 2007

Kaari Upson, Kiss 8, 2007; Oil on panel, Diptych, each: 48 x 48 in.; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Kaari Upson, Kiss 8, 2007; Oil on panel, Diptych, each: 48 x 48 in.; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Multimedia, installation, video, and performance artist Kaari Upson (b. 1972, San Bernardino, California) conducted an elaborate investigation into the life of a stranger for her series “The Larry Project.” Upson said, “Larry could be anybody. My main investigation is between self and other.”

After collecting and examining personal belongings from the remains of a house fire, Upson painted an imagined portrait of Larry. While the painting was wet, Upson “smashed it face-to-face with her own self-portrait,” merging their faces together in these “kiss” paintings.

Visit the museum and explore NO MAN’S LAND, on view through January 8, 2017.

—Kait Gilioli was the summer 2016 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

NO MAN’S LAND: Painting or Sculpture?

Contemporary large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids are on view in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. The exhibition imagines a visual conversation between 37 women artists from 15 countries exploring images of the female body and the physical process of making. Dianna Molzan, Tauba Auerbach, and Analia Saban blur the line between painting and sculpture through their experimental approaches to conventional materials and techniques.

Dianna Molzan, Untitled, 2010; Oil on canvas on fir; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Dianna Molzan, Untitled, 2010; Oil on canvas on fir; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

What’s On View?

Dianna Molzan’s untitled work, 2010

Dianna Molzan (b. 1972, Tacoma, Washington) says, “I’m definitely a painter. . . . But it’s fun to see how far I can push things.” Molzan uses traditional materials like canvas, wood, pigment, and brushes to create paintings that are often described as sculptural. Her restructured canvases highlight the “drama of presentation” while challenging conventions of painting.

Molzan’s investigations of painting defy expectations. One of her untitled works on view embraces three-dimensionality by revealing the wooden supports and gallery walls beneath unraveled canvas. The space itself becomes a part of her piece, while referencing the history of painting. In describing her smart and playful works, Molzan says, “I’ve likened them to paintings in drag. . . . I’m trying to do my best impersonation.”

Analia Saban’s Acrylic in Canvas, 2010

Analia Saban (b. 1980, Buenos Aires, Argentina) often blurs the line between mediums “in a way that deconstructs and re-visualizes the very process of art-making.”

Analia Sabain, Acrylic in Canvas, 2010; Acrylic in canvas bag; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Analia Sabain, Acrylic in Canvas, 2010; Acrylic in canvas bag; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Acrylic in Canvas consists of a canvas bag filled with vibrantly colored acrylic paint. Propped up against a wall, the work combines the traditional ingredients of painting in a new way that questions the medium’s boundaries. Saban sometimes describes her work as “the process of sculpture applied to a painting.”

Saban’s work complicates conventional ideas about painting. “Usually we think of painting on canvas,” she says. “It was interesting to think of painting as pigment on thread.”

With a playful title just one letter away from describing a traditional form of painting, Acrylic in Canvas reminds viewers how flexible borders between seemingly discrete categories can be.

Tauba Auerbach’s Slice II, 2012

Tauba Auerbach, Slice II, 2012; Woven canvas on wooden stretcher; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Tauba Auerbach, Slice II, 2012; Woven canvas on wooden stretcher; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Slice II, by Tauba Auerbach (b. 1981, San Francisco, California), explores the boundaries between text and meaning, appearance and reality, and two and three dimensions.

Working in a wide range of mediums, Auerbach expresses interest in structure, technology, and binaries.

A woven canvas on a wooden stretcher, Slice II resembles a conventional abstract painting at first glance. However, the canvas is not painted, and her weaving process is more closely akin to a sculptural technique. Auerbach says these works have “a teeter-tottering quality: they oscillate between being flat surfaces and 3D objects.”

Visit the museum and explore NO MAN’S LAND, on view through January 8, 2017.

Reserve your spot to meet artist Analia Saban at NMWA on November 11, 2016 for a special in-gallery conversation.

—Kait Gilioli was the summer 2016 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

NO MAN’S LAND: Otherworldly Bodies

Contemporary large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids are on view in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. The exhibition imagines a visual conversation between 37 women artists from 15 countries exploring images of the female body and the physical process of making. Miriam Cahn, Amy Bessone, and Aya Takano depict ambiguous figures that provoke viewers’ curiosity.

What’s On View?

Miriam Cahn, Versehrt, 1998; Oil on canvas (left) and Amy Bessone, No. 329 (Edit), 2007; Oil on canvas (right); Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Miriam Cahn, Versehrt, 1998; Oil on canvas (left) and Amy Bessone, No. 329 (Edit), 2007; Oil on canvas (right); Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Miriam Cahn’s Versehrt, 1998

Miriam Cahn (b. 1949, Basel, Switzerland) creates intimate and haunting oil paintings. Before 1994, Cahn only painted monotone compositions. Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1964 film Il deserto rosso (Red Desert) inspired Cahn to add pops of intense color to her paintings.

Versehrt, which means injured or damaged, depicts a ghostly female figure against a stark background. The subject’s blue-hued face resembles a mask. Her translucent skin recalls a ghost, but her bodily features evoke human physicality. Nearly life-size, the subject appears to drift toward the viewer from a dark, ambiguous background. Cahn questions traditional depictions of women through her haunting figures.

Amy Bessone’s No. 329 (Edit), 2007

Working with oil on canvas, Amy Bessone (b. 1970, New York City) explores themes of femininity and the representation of women in art history. “Found objects are my muses,” says the artist. Bessone works from images of small porcelain figurines, which she enlarges to fill colossal canvases.

No. 329 (Edit) is a portrait of a nude porcelain figurine. The subject’s stiff posture and inhuman, gray, and glossy skin are emphasized at a larger scale. The scale of the figure also amplifies its seductive pose and critiques the sculpture’s original purpose as a tantalizing object of desire. No. 329 (Edit) questions the canonical female nude, consumerism, and the male gaze. Through painting a found object, Bessone regains control of the female nude.

Aya Takano, On the Night of Departure, Black Hair Flows, 2003; Acrylic on canvas, Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Aya Takano, On the Night of Departure, Black Hair Flows, 2003; Acrylic on canvas, Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Aya Takano’s On the Night of Departure, Black Hair Flows (2003)

Aya Takano (b. 1976, Saitama, Japan) studied under the popular Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, who founded the Superflat movement. The artist draws heavily from historic and contemporary Japanese culture, with references to manga (Japanese comics and cartoons), ukiyo-e (woodblock prints from the Edo period), and Shunga (erotic art).

Characteristic of Takano’s painting style, the androgynous figures in On the Night of Departure have circular faces, rail-thin bodies, and eyes without pupils. Spaceships floating in the background are evidence of Takano’s interest in science fiction. Takano says, “I think of the figures that I create as spiritual beings.”

Visit the museum and explore NO MAN’S LAND, on view through January 8, 2017.

—Casey Betts was the summer 2016 digital engagement intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.