50 women or the risks of randomness
Let us recall some exhibitions of women artists. Within the framework of the International Women's Year Conference, held in Mexico City in 1975, the Museum of Modern Art presented the exhibition: "Women as creators and subject of art", with the participation of 13 women artists and 33 male artists. In 1977, the first exhibition of feminist art in Mexico was held at the Casa del Lago (UNAM): "Collage íntimo", in which Rosalba Huerta, Mónica Mayer, and Lucila Santiago participated. There is more: "Mexican Women Painters of the 19th Century" (Museo de San Carlos, 1985), the result of exhaustive research work by Leonor Cortina; "Drawings by Contemporary Mexican Women" (Museo de Arte Moderno, 1990-1991), which included work by 28 female creators from different generations; "Women in Mexico" (National Academy of Design, Centro Cultural/Arte Contemporáneo and Museo de Monterrey, 1990-1991), which was so controversial because of the inclusion, within the group of 22 women exhibitors, of Marie José Paz, and "Eight Women in Art Today" (Museo de Arte Moderno, 1998), with work by Yolanda Andrade, Minerva Cuevas, Yvonne Domenge, Cecilia León, Nunik Sauret, Melanie Smith, Trini, and Teresa Zimbrón.
With all the flaws they may have had, these exhibitions were made by serious and professional people, with very clear ideas of what they intended. The same does not happen with other group exhibitions, in which the only aim is to include as many women artists as possible, regardless of the quality of their work. There is no proper curatorial work in them. The idea is to exhibit works that have the grace of having been created by women, whether they are self-taught, beginners, Sunday painters, or professional authors with prestige and recognition in the field. Hence, these exhibitions are always chaotic and uneven. Some of these pathetic exhibitions that come to mind are: "50 women in the plastic arts in Mexico" (Metropolitan Gallery of the UAM, 1996-1997), "The colors of thought from border to border. Expresiones plásticas de 100 mujeres" (Museo Universitario de Ciencias y Artes, 1997), "Tiempos de mujer" (Centro Médico Nacional Siglo XXI, 2001) and "Paradigmas. Por puro gozo: reflexiones y cromosomas" (SHCP Gallery, 2002).
Good or bad, exhibitions of women artists continue and will continue to be held. One exhibition that always attracts attention is the one organized every year by the International Coordination of Women in the Arts (ComuArte), with the work of its visual and plastic artists. This year the exhibition was entitled: "Women, Art, and Spirituality: Breaking the Silence" and included the work of 27 women artists and was presented at the Adamo Boari Hall of the Palace of Fine Arts. Another exhibition that could be seen until a few days ago at the Museum of Mexico City (Pino Suarez 30. Historic Center) and that can be seen again when it reopens its doors at the end of the health emergency, is entitled: "50 women, 50 works, 50 years". Both exhibitions were undoubtedly very relevant in these times of feminine rebellion we are living in. In the following lines, I will deal with the second exhibition.
Because it is an exhibition of women, because it is a project of the Ministry of Culture (whose discourse in favor of gender equity and equality pretends to be a "practice"), and because it is presented in a venue as serious as the Museum of Mexico City, "50 women, 50 works, 50 years" was perceived as a very attractive event. With this in mind, I visited the exhibition...to be sorely disappointed. It is not a pathetic exhibition, like some of the ones I mentioned above, but it is a failed exhibition in the way it was conceived. In one of the texts accompanying the exhibition, it is stated that it is not: "a historical review nor does it intend to establish a canon, but to present some of the outlines of the current panorama". In another text, it is said that the exhibition: "does not respond to an exhaustive research but has a lot of randomnesses" and that its cartography is drawn "between the possibilities of chance and mutual attraction". And in another text: that the curatorship was collective and "does not intend to draw a dividing line but a space for dialogue between works by different women artists, of different ages, ranging from experimentation to provocation, from innovation to the accentuation of a form of expression". Let's see.
I find it hard to believe that an exhibition that brings together women born between 1950 and 1993, in a production framework that goes from the 1970s to date and that includes all disciplines, formats, supports, and techniques is not a "historical review". This kind of exhibition has to be historical reviews, and they must be supported by exhaustive research, something that seems not to have been done in this case. The most serious aspect of the matter is that the curatorship was "collective" and carried out in a "random" manner. I consulted several of the participating artists and from what they told me I was able to conclude the following: several people from the museum surveyed to see who wanted to participate, and then a letter of invitation was sent to the authors who said yes, and that finally they were asked to send three images of their work so that one could be chosen for the exhibition. Some artists were called by Brenda Luna Lobato -curator and exhibition manager of the museum-, but others were contacted by different people (curators or curators subordinate to Luna Lobato?).
That a curatorship is made from digital images does not seem wrong to me. The problem here was the unclear criteria for the selection of artists and works. But if randomness by definition is something that depends on chance and fortuitousness, then everything is explained. Thus, it is understandable that Monica Mayer participated in the exhibition, but that Maris Bustamante and Maria Eugenia Chellet (the latter, by the way, had a wonderful show at the museum five years ago) were conspicuous by their absence. And so on. In the presence of Claire Becker, Jeannette Betancourt, Beatriz Canfield, Berta Kolteniuk, and Betsabeé Romero, the absence of Aurora Noreña and Elizabeth Ross. One more: in the presence of Estrella Carmona, Rocio Caballero, Monica Castillo, and Magali Lara, the inconceivable absence of Patricia Soriano and other figurative painters. There was no exhaustive research and the result is there for all to see: an uneven exhibition, in which consecrated and unknown artists coexist forcibly, good and bad works, together and mixed up. Strike out the Ministry of Culture and the Museum of Mexico City.
El Heraldo Estado de México Newspaper
Published on March 29, 2020
State of Mexico, México.