The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) is currently hosting a feminist art exhibit entitled, “New Time: Art and Feminisms in the 21st Century.” According to BAMPFA’s press release, “New Time,” which officially opened in February 2021, is the first major museum exhibition focusing solely on 21st-century feminist art.
Inspired by Leslie Scalapino’s poem of the same name, the exhibit highlights feminism in its many forms, and the gallery delivers. With pieces ranging from a large projected video of Pussy Riot’s 2012 protests of the Orthodox Church to Nicki Green’s ceramics showcasing her journey as a trans woman, the exhibit brings the feminist voices of the art world into the light.
The exhibit walks the viewer through the complexities of the female experience over the course of eight gallery sections:
- Arch of Hysteria
- Returning the Gaze
- Time as Fabric
- The Body in Pieces
- Gender Alchemy
- Womxn Workers of the World Unite!
- Too Nice for Too Long
- The Future Is Feminist
The themes of these sections vary from negative stereotypes about women to body image to the history of feminist activism. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the exhibit is the showcasing of a variety of mediums of art, including videography, sculpture, painting, and collage.
My personal favorite piece was done by Jenny Holzer, a New York-based artist whose work typically combines words or phrases with large public installations or fixtures. Her piece in “New Time” was a large bench made of beautiful dark labradorite inscribed with the words, “Abuse of power comes as no surprise.” In addition to being visually beautiful, labradorite, known as the stone of truth, proves to be an apt choice for Holzer’s delivery of the classic truism.
Before entering the exhibit, visitors are able to view a wall of pieces done by the Guerrilla Girls, an anonymous feminist art group focused on fighting gender and racial inequality in the art world. Largely text-based, the pieces stretching across the wall highlight disturbing and startling statistics about the lack of inclusion of female artists in major gallery shows. This brief introduction into the history of inequality in the art world makes the “New Time” exhibit all the more impactful, as the female voice is finally given space to exist in all its many incarnations.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit the exhibit with my reading and composition class on utopian feminisms. Admission is free for all UC Berkeley students, and BAMPFA is located just across the street from campus! I would encourage anyone who is intrigued by the exploration of gender and womanhood through art to pay a visit to “New Time” and witness the myriad of forms the female voice can take when given space for creation.