Austrian-born artist Ulrike Muller's current exhibit "Herstory Inventory" at The Brooklyn Museum is made up of 100 pieces by various artists. Spread between the elevator lobbies on four floors and inspired by the Lesbian Herstory Archives, 5 major themes/symbols run throughout the work—triangles, rainbows, flowers (lily,iris), hands/fists, and axes. As part of the Museum's series "RAW/COOKED," this show is one of several under-the-radar Brooklyn-based exhibited artists.
The majority of the displayed work is 2D, however there are some 3D artifacts in glass cases pertaining to the 5 major themes as well. "100 Feminist Drawings" is a collection of works which benefits from careful attention to each piece—if you go see the show, be sure to consult the provided gallery sheets as you tour the space! My personal favorites were # 2, 10, 14 (by Kathleen Hanna), 19, 23 (by JD Samson), 29 (beautiful penwork), 50, 63, 68 (by K8 Hardy), 82, 94, and 97.
# 99 by Ginger Brooks Takahashi and Dana Bishop-Root is especially memorable: a carefully hand-drawn and meticulously labeled map of the "Island of Lesbos with icons depicting different sites and tourist activities." Instilled with a sense of humor, the map is as idyllic as it gets. A caption towards the bottom reads: "since the beginning of the Glorious Age, the Lesbian peoples have left the cities to live in the fields, mountains, forests, plains, hills, near rivers, springs, on islands." (Although this may not be applicable to us New York City Lesbian peoples.)
The presentation of 5 stereotypical and obvious feminist / lesbian images (triangles, rainbows, flowers, hands, axes) leads to the questions- what are the more subtle aspects of the work? What other forms help assemble the "narrative of lesbian and feminist histories" (quote from Huffington Post)? And how are other themes and empowered behaviors, like defiance, leadership, strength, action, dominance, etc represented in more subtle ways? What does this chorus of 100 voices say about the reality of feminism, both inside and outside of an arts context? These questions remain, in my mind, open-ended.
The symbol of hands/fists was particularly interesting to me because it seems to be perhaps the most multi-dimensional of all the symbols. Depending on gesture and placement of fingers, hands/fists have many connotations- sensual, caring, sexual, political, offensive, rebellious, etc. Additionally the artist can choose to portray these connotations in a literal or conceptual way. With so many variables, the symbolism behind hands/fists becomes versatile.
Regarding the presence of feminist and queer ideas in museum spaces, it seems that this show is in good company with a handfull of other shows currently showing in New York- "We Who Feel Differently" by Carlos Motta at the New Museum, SoHo20's "Backlash: On Women's Basic Rights and Freedoms," etc