Monday, December 5, 2011

Women in the Zone: Making History in Pacific Standard Time

Like many in the city, I have been reveling in the many events, openings, artwork, and exhibitions that make up the enormous Getty arts initiative, Pacific Standard Time (PST).  Women as artists and as subjects are strongly represented both among and within these exhibitions.

“Doin’ it in Public: Feminism and Art at the Woman’s Building” at Otis is a must see, as is “She Accepts the Proposition: Women Gallerists and the Re-Definition of Art in LA” at Crossroads.  While the first contains extensive documentation on a landmark in the history of feminist art (plan several well-spent hours!), the latter uncovers an untold story about women’s contributions to the LA art scene through their art galleries. LACE and 18th Street Art Center celebrate the contributions of performance artists such as Suzanne Lacy, Rachel Rosenthal, Barbara T. Smith, Cheri Gaulke and Nancy Angelo, while individual shows survey the lifework of Beatrice Wood or feature new installation work of Sandra de la Loza in Mural Remix.  

Women are also prominently featured in shows with no particular gender focus such as “Now Dig This: African American Art 1960-1980” at the Hammer or “Mapping Another LA” at the Fowler. 

Recently, I attended the sensational symposium addressing “LA Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema,” an ongoing film series at the Hammer that documents the exceptional films made by post-Watts African American students in the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in the 1970s and early 1980s.  The series opened with an evening of work by Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust and Four Women), followed by Haile Gerima’s Bush Mama and Bernard Nicholas’ Daydream Therapy, each of which featured African American women as protagonists.  The scholars and curators who put together this program—Professors Allyson Field of UCLA and Jacqueline Stewart of Northwestern along with Chris Horak, Director of the UCLA Film and Television Archive—have coordinated five interrelated activities to materialize the history of this vital film movement.  They found, preserved, and archived the films and the paper of the filmmakers; they did extensive oral histories, discovering many new filmmakers along the way; they exhibited the newly preserved films; they provided electronic access to papers and visual materials; and they will publish a book of research on this film movement.

In the instance of the LA Rebellion, Pacific Standard Time is not a one-off but an integrated approach to knowledge production, public programming, and community building. While the exhibition and public programming is on the surface, underneath are the archival work, the preservation, and the research, what is necessary to the making. The feminist movement taught us you have to pay attention to the making, to how things are made. Pacific Standard Time finds women everywhere, making the history it tells.  

–Kathleen McHugh, Director of the UCLA Center for the Study of Women
from CSW Update, November 2011

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