Feminist writer and scholar Sara Ahmed describes a sweaty concept as “one that comes out of a description of a body that is not at home in the world.” Consisting of works in all media drawn from WCMA’s collection, this exhibition explores the difficulty and labor of, in Ahmed’s words, “coming up against … and trying to transform a world.”
Works by Nancy Spero, May Stevens, and Ida Applebroog explicitly claim feminism as a central tenet of their practice. Sherrie Levine and Dotty Attie appropriate works by famous male “masters,” and posters by the Guerrilla Girls draw attention to the ingrained biases and inequities in an art world that decided masters were male in the first place. Visceral, figurative works by artists such as Laylah Ali, Kara Walker, and Chitra Ganesh, and text-based works by Adrian Piper, Zoe Leonard, and Cary Liebowitz, embody and describe the struggle of forging a path within and against societal power structures that are encoded to keep certain bodies out. Not all artists represented in the exhibition identify as women nor are all concerns strictly feminist. Rather, the works in Sweaty Concepts describe a range of experiences across gender identity, sexual orientation, race, and ability, that involve making a place for oneself where it does not already exist.
Organized by WCMA in conjunction with the Feminist Art Coalition, a platform for art projects informed by feminisms presented at various museums and nonprofit organizations beginning in the fall of 2020 and over the course of one year, Sweaty Concepts is also coincident with the fiftieth anniversary of coeducation at Williams College and the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Sweaty Concepts, together with other projects taking place on campus throughout the year, provides platforms for a variety of voices and makes a claim about the value of building and sustaining equity across differences.
Sweaty Concepts includes works by Laylah Ali, Emma Amos, Ida H. Applebroog, Tomie Arai, Dotty Attie, Rina Banerjee, Nayland Blake, Monica Bonvicini, Louise Bourgeois, Giuseppe Campuzano, Patty Chang, Nicole Eisenman, Lalla A. Essaydi, Mary Frank, Chitra Ganesh, Guerrilla Girls, Nancy Grossman, Jenny Holzer, Margo Humphrey, Christine Sun Kim, Louise Lawler, Carolyn Lazard, Cary Leibowitz, Zoe Leonard, Sherrie Levine, Lee Lozano, Germain Machuca, Monica Majoli, Marisol, Ana Mendieta, Amalia Mesa-Bains, Zanele Muholi, Catherine Opie, Adrian Piper, Elle Pérez, Cara Romero, Mika Rottenberg, Miriam Schapiro, Judith Shea, Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, Kiki Smith, Nancy Spero, Jana Sterbak, May Stevens, Kerry Stewart, Patssi Valdez, Carrie Mae Weems, Sue Williams, and Francesca Woodman.