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The Triumph of Venus

The exhibit is a tribute to the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage in Austria, as well as the 50-year anniversary of the establishment of a female avant-garde in that same country, and dares to ask the question: what does it mean to be a woman, now?


Sevda Chkoutova’s delightfully irreverent wall drawing unites the multi-leveled show by extending from the first floor to the second, the monochromatic mayhem in thin, meandering lines blossoming from plump, awkward figures in various sexually compromising positions—something akin to Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights—into large monsters that seem to be reaching towards the ceiling of the second level, where Pilz's video whispers on loop.


The basement level is an unexpected comment on fashion’s play into the identity of a woman—and what it takes to produce the clothes we so adore. Ines Doujak’s installation contains a video of performers recalling a horrific factory fire, the TV beside a rack of clothes with fire printed on some, female nudes printed on others—a riveting juxtaposition, since the impulse is of course, to flip through the rack of clothes as if we were going to select one for purchase, and upon this consumer-driven examination, the link between the imagery printed on the clothing and the story being recalled on-screen is a lesson in eureka-style catharsis.


The graphic visual work of the myriad of other artists is too numerous to recount in detail, but Betty Tompkins’ wall of slurs towards women—CUNTY, BITCH, etc.—is a punchy bit of the profane that feels oddly hallowed, like a wall of blessings—a success in ‘reclaiming’ hate speech by rendering it into blunt imagery. To be a bitch, these days, is actually kind of cool.

Margot Pilz, still from 'Herstory - 36,000 Years of Goddesses and Idols.'
Betty Tompkins, 'Women's Words.'
Sevda Chkoutova, 'Untitled.'
Ines Doujak, 'SALE' (installation).
Margot Pilz, still from 'Herstory - 36,000 Years of Goddesses and Idols.'
Betty Tompkins, 'Women's Words.'
Ines Doujak, 'SALE' (installation).
Beatrice Dreux, 'Flowers for Medea 2.'
Beatrice Dreux, 'Venus.'
Betty Tompkins, 'Women's Words.'
Martha Wilson, 'Mona/Marcel/Marge.'
Joan Semmel, 'Centered.'
Maria Hahnenkamp, 'V8/10.'
Heidi Harsieber, 'MQ  2001,' photo series.

'Women.Now' is on view at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York through February 18. All photos courtesy of ACFNY.

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