This first major retrospective of Nancy Spero (Ohio, USA, 1926) carries the suggestive title: Dissidances. She is one of the most radical artists linked to feminist art, both in her proposal as in her political discourse. The choice of the title refers to dance, a central motif of the artist's work that extends into both social and cultural commitments. In this way, Spero approaches her work from a critical stance towards the contemporary political situation and does so from an exploration of the body as a tool that formulates her discourse. For this she produces a graphical language, specifically female, representing the capacity of women to transform their own space.
Spero develops her career on the New York scene of the rebellious Sixties through the challenging of dominant aesthetic and ideological patterns. Her artistic facet begins with painting in a traditional manner, but she soon perceived that this medium, predominantly male, marginalises her as an artist. From then onwards her search will be directed towards the creation of a specifically feminine language. Her controversial artistic strategy differs from other feminists by enrolling in a broader political framework, which has led her to make war one of her main themes and one that she continues to work with.
Spero insistently depicts violence against women (torture, rape in war), which has led to different readings: for some is a clear gesture of political commitment, while for others it is a way to feed voyeuristic morbid curiosity. For her part, the use of the appropriation of visual images extracted from heterogeneous sources has meant that sometimes Spero assimilates with postmodern appropriationists, although for others it constitutes a way of emphasising the originality of a transcultural and transhistorical iconography, which provides the foundations of a new feminist vocabulary.
The 178 pieces of which Dissidances is comprised show the entirety of Spero's work and her quest to achieve her own language: from pieces that are from her years as a student at the Art Institute of Chicago which have never before been shown to the public, to her latest monumental installations at her last appearance at the Venice Biennale. This retrospective, chronologically articulated through sections whose titles evoke war, incorporates another part that is fundamental to her work, the reference to French author Antonin Artaud, with whom she explores the limits of language, abjection and information.
Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona MACBA, Barcelona (July 4 - September 24, 2008)