Guerrilla Girls: The GMOA’s Latest Exhibit and Why It Matters
By: Julie Saxton
The Georgia Museum of Art’s Not Ready to Make Nice: Guerrilla Girls in the Art World and Beyond exhibit includes, but is not limited to, giant posters declaiming the Oscars, photographs of women hiding their faces behind gorilla masks, and satirical picket signs. I expected none of this when I walked into the two-room exhibit this past weekend. I went expecting “radical feminist art from the 80’s”–although what that could have possibly entailed, I had no idea. Instead of pictures or sculptures, I was shown billboards and posters that used to hang in cities all over the world. This was art for the masses, art for a cause, and art that didn’t play around.
While making my way through the exhibit, I discovered that in 1985, a group called the Guerrilla Girls formed. They describe themselves as “a bunch of anonymous females who take the names of dead women artists as pseudonyms and appear in public wearing gorilla masks.” Primarily, they got angry at art museums for their overwhelmingly male-dominated exhibits and decided to take action. Most of the posters on display in the GMOA exhibit list statistics about specific museums around the world, informing the viewer how many male and female artists have art displayed in each museum (hint: amount of art produced by men > amount of art produced by women). They also include numbers of female artists who are in the museums’ collections and female artists who have been featured in special exhibits. Consistently, the art world is dominated by men.
I will admit that a few times I thought, “Why does it matter?” As a musician, I know the role of the fine arts in the modern world. I know that the average 21st-century American probably isn’t training to become a painter or visiting an art museum daily. So how is an art museum, no matter how male-dominated, truly going to affect anyone? The Guerrilla Girls themselves state that they have become a model for feminist activism. To publish such brashly titled books as Bitches, Bimbos, and Ballbreakers, to hang those giant posters on buildings, and to directly target the finest art museums in the world takes a lot of guts. The gorilla masks definitely demand attention, as well. The Guerrilla Girls are unafraid, outspoken, and influential in the feminist movement of their time and now.
They also do not focus exclusively on fine arts. Several posters on display at the GMOA exhibit call out the Oscars for their lack of female representation–an extremely relevant topic for the modern world, especially after this past weekend. The posters offer satirical views of the awards, list the unbalanced statistics of award-winners (for example: only four women have ever been nominated for Best Directing and only one has won), and call attention to one of the most influential types of media in today’s world.
The Guerrilla Girls demonstrate that art extends beyond the museum into everyday life–in TV, movies, advertisements, and even street art. I believe that they give a voice to the women artists of the past, who lived in even stricter patriarchal societies and who may not have been given their due credit for their work. The Guerrilla Girls know the importance of representation in all types of media and speak out in their loud, brazen way, for those who cannot.
Visit here for more information about the exhibit
Visit here for more information about the Girls.