The Guerilla Girls caused a big stir in the late 1980s and 90s when they highlighted the disparity between female and male artists in the art world.

Flash forward to 2010, a founding member, “Frida Kahlo,” of the once revolutionary group talks to the Whitney about the Georgia O’Keeffe show that closed last month in New York and is currently on view at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.

It’s curious that the video was uploaded on February 3, considering the New York show closed January 17. I seriously found myself experiencing a time warp as I listened to “Frida Kahlo” talk about O’Keeffe and her story. My favorite line, which just sounds silly, is, “The culture needed a female artist at that time.” I think that statement doesn’t do justice to O’Keeffe and her special brand of artistic brilliance.

If you didn’t see the gorilla mask, Kahlo’s voice could easily be mistaken for that of a curator, which begs the question, hasn’t the world changed? Are the Guerilla Girls even relevant anymore? Can’t female curators, art historians, bloggers, trustees, collectors, gallery owners, artists, critics, etc. hold their own and demand change whenever they deem it necessary to do so?

But on a more pressing issue, can someone please explain to me why the Guerilla Girls website is dominated by really horrible graphics? My eyes are seriously bleeding.

Whitney’s promotional video for the show is here. While over on, you can watch: Guerrilla Girls: Frida Kahlo Visits Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction if you can’t see it in this post.

Hat tip Hoogrrl

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

38 replies on “Guerrilla Girl Attempts to Stay Relevant By Talking Georgia O’Keeffe”

  1. It is definitely up-to-the-minute trendy to be dismissive of political art, espeically if cranky anti-art world screeds are already your beat. It says: Look! We may obsessively catalogue the douchiness of the art world, but we aren’t so earnest as to actually buy into any sort of crap about changing it. We’re just sardonic cool kids, not activists!

  2. The only relevant thing in art is art itself in spite of the artist’s ideological aesthetics or politics………….everything else is just fashion or modality..that doesn’t mean I am apolitical or anti aesthetics….on the contrary, commitment is always relevant and revelant in the praxis of art and social change….and necessary in order for art to be relevant and to overcome the commodity status in the market……….art (the symbollic) is the limit of freedom and artists thru art can only hope for critically opening spaces of freedom without fooling themselves with illusions………thanks for the review and the video…………….

  3. Kind of, yes. They need to get either more militant or go away. Their form of feminism is kind of passe and is dislodging no one.

  4. Thanks for this clip, Hrag. I love the Guerrilla Girls–loved them then, love them now.–exactly as they are. They said things then that Jerry Saltz is saying now, and that Jerry is able to say in large part because of the noise they made, the events they staged. Are they still relevant? You don’t burn the bridge just because you’ve made it to the other side. There are others waiting to cross.

      1. Do you have any specific suggestions? What is it about this particular brand of feminism that turns you off other than it seems dated? I still like the masks. If you are a woman this is relevant because they are riffing on the fact that female faces are still less important than the rest of the female form – at least in the art world – and emphasizes the need for anonymity for these women and the very real fear of being marginalized for politicizing in this manner.

        The video is poorly timed, yes. They need some fresh policy, yes. Can you suggest something more specific and constructive?

        BTW, you are right. The site graphics are pretty heinous.

  5. FYI – Guerrilla Girls split into three new and independent groups in 2001. One of those groups is Guerrilla Girls On Tour, founded by three GG members who were theatre artists. Our mission is to tour the world with plays, performances and street theatre that proves feminists are funny.

      1. The third group is Guerrilla Girls Broadband The split was to expand to new frontiers – the GG’s who founded the GGOT’s are theatre artists who wanted to fight discrimination with theatre.

  6. The graphics are bad, the shtick is tired, and more militancy would certainly be welcomed. But the need is undeniable. Just yesterday, in my daily trawlings, I came across these two separate press releases (excerpted) for shows up in my city:

    “The eleven oil paintings in this series use imagery of youthful women in the nude, often impaled by archery arrows. Although the women are naked and impaled their facial expression and body language is unaffected.”

    “The artist’s new body of work explores his experience with freeing his rational psyche and surrendering to his unconscious mind. Many of the paintings, which are a blend of realism and abstraction, depict nude women wading in water.”

    I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell century we are in.

  7. Also, as far as I know, the Toxic Titties are not related to the Guerrilla Girls, except in spirit. I find their work bracing, though, and smart. And funny. My favorite piece by them is the Beecroft Intervention, wherein they infiltrated a Beecroft piece by becoming actual Beecroft models and then unionizing them from within, as well as (gasp!) making facial expressions during a performance. They highlighted the fact that Beecroft’s work is everything it is supposedly trying to mock. I don’t know if Toxic Titties cite Guerrilla Girls as an influence, but it would make sense.

  8. Wait, this is a Whitney presented (approved) GG audio essay?

    What’s the point? If America needed a female modernist icon in the thirties – The Whitney needs a cash cow show now. Luckily O’Keeffe fits the bill in both cases, she’s so handy. As for the video, safe jargon laden art speak. Did the Whitney need a masked woman with a past to speak those lines? That’s the real question. Not “whither the GGs,” but why can’t a woman say these same things openly to the Whitney e-audience?

  9. A Guerilla Girl came to RISD a couple months ago and I went because I was curious to see how they’d stand the test of time and whether RISD students would respond. Well, she got off to a cringeworthy slow start but soon managed to engage the full auditorium of students who gave her a standing ovation. I got a little teary.

  10. Georgia O’Keaffe had an amazing technique. I mean that quite literally. If you go to any museum, you will observe that her paintings are still in a stunning condition. Van Gogh’s paintings are already starting to show some cracks and going to cause alot of headaches in the coming century.

  11. sigh…. they should still be going what they were first doing – which is protesting the lack of women artists in galleries and museums…. that’s still a problem. Everyone’s got an O’Keefe opinion, so her’s joins the others… so what?

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