The Zuccaire Gallery is not ready to make nice with its provocative presentation of the Guerrilla Girls this fall. Anonymous and audacious, this feminist artist group has been crossing lines to battle social issues in the art world and beyond since 1985. The more than 55 members wear gorilla masks and use aliases, which are the names of dead pioneering female artists. Keeping their anonymity allows their work to be the focal point.
From Sept. 14 through Oct. 22, the exhibition titled “Not Ready to Make Nice: Guerrilla Girls in the Art World and Beyond” will include some of the group’s most iconic pieces as well as exclusive international projects and documentary material. This showcase is part of an ongoing tour that originated at Columbia College Chicago and was specifically designed for a college audience.
“This is important because new ideas happen at universities and students are always the first to be supporters,” Frida Kahlo, the original Guerrilla Girl who has assumed the name of the 20th century Mexican painter, said.
On Oct. 13 at 4 p.m. in the Wang Center, a newer member who calls herself Zubeida Agha, after the first Pakistani modern artist, will join Kahlo in a special cross-generational discussion on the mission and work of the Guerrilla Girls.
The two featured pieces “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” and “Anatomically correct Oscar” expose two different industries but address the same issue of unequal gender representation. Text included on both pieces revealed some eye-opening statistics. In the 1980s when the former piece was made, less than 5 percent of modern artists were women, yet a staggering 85 percent of nude works portrayed women. And in 2002 when the latter was made, only 5.5 percent of Oscar awards had gone to people of color and no woman had won an Oscar for Best Director.
These numbers are only slowly improving, but the Guerrilla Girls remain optimistic. For example, Kathryn Bigelow won the Academy Award for Best Director in 2009.
“There is an incredible glass ceiling for anyone who isn’t a straight white male in the art world,” Kahlo said. “We had no idea how low it would be, but things are changing.”
“The Estrogen Bomb” will also be featured. It depicts a pink meteor-like estrogen pill hurdling toward Earth, with text overlaying the image: “Drop it on the superpowers and the guys in charge will throw down their big guns, hug each other, apologize, and start to work on human rights, education, health care and an end to income inequality.”
The poster was inspired by the estrogen replacement scandal in the early 2000s when women halted hormone replacement therapy as a result of medical breakthroughs that revealed its dangers.
“When everyone stopped taking it, we thought, ‘What should they do with all the leftover estrogen?’” Kahlo said. “Well, we should make fun of it.”
While viewing the artwork in the gallery, visitors will have the opportunity to read the Guerrilla Girls’ favorite “love letters and hate mail,” interact with an “If I were a feminist…” chalkboard and write sticky notes to the artists that will be tweeted.
“Their main message is equality, equality of all genders and all races,” Karen Levitov, the gallery director, said.
“We very much believe we follow this message as we make sure to reflect the community, students and faculty and make the gallery both accessible and inclusive for all.”