It's been 25 years since the Guerrilla Girls, a group of radical feminist artists, decided to do something about the sexism they found in the art world. Known for their gorilla masks and pseudonyms of deceased female artists, the group is also famous for their provocative posters, which were at first plastered all over the streets of New York.
One of the founding members of the group, who goes by Frida Kahlo, is coming to Augsburg on Friday, November 5 at 5 p.m. in the Hoversten Chapel, Foss Center as part of The Many Voices, Bold Visions convocation series. The event is free and open to the public. She'll be giving a multimedia presentation, and reading from some of the Guerrilla Girls books. She'll also be leading a dramatization with some of the audience members.
Kahlo says that it all started back in 1984 when she "kind of had an a-ha moment." She was at the Museum of Modern Art for "An International Survey of Painting and Sculpture" when she and a few other Guerrilla Girls found that only 13 of the 169 featured artists were women, and even less were people of color. "It was pathetic," she says.
So she and her friends decided to do something about it. "We were developing new and provocative strategies to think about sexism in the art world," she says. "Everyone thought the art world was just the way it was and they weren't able to scrutinize it."
"When we first started out," Kahlo says, "We were working in an atmosphere of disbelief--until we presented them with the facts." Back then, The Guerrilla Girls were very controversial. However, a lot has happened in the past 25 years, and their popularity has proved to be a dilemma. "Many of the institutions that we were attacking now love us," she says.
The art world has changed, but there is still work to be done. "There is exclusion and discrimination that are both conscious and unconscious and every generation it takes a different form," Kahlo says. "Now we've discovered there is a crushing glass ceiling." Professional opportunities for women and artists of color just don't happen, especially now in a climate where museums are driven by the commercial art market more than ever before, according to Kahlo.
The methods used by the Guerrilla Girls have changed, too. Where they used to stick posters up using wheat paste, they now have the internet at their disposal, where images can go viral very quickly. They can now reach tens of thousands of people all over the world much more cheaply.
They've also found that "culture jamming" is a lot more effective than street actions. The Guerrilla Girls have published several books, engaging their audience in a discussion through a kind of scholarly, if still provocative, discourse. "But we still think of ourselves as freedom fighters," Kahlo says.
Frida Kahlo of the Guerilla Girls will appear as part of the The Many Voices, Bold Visions convocation series Friday, November 5 at 5 p.m. in the Hoversten Chapel, Foss Center at 22nd and Riverside Avenues South in Minneapolis. Limited on-street parking is available. This event is free and open to the public.