580 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY

Black Madonna has as its signature image Mark Wiener’s 1982 Still Life in Red, a photograph of the nude pop star Madonna painted with a red X. There is a lot of nudity in this wonderful exhibit, a raw intensity not typically on view in Chelsea, which is why the near Times Square location of HP Garcia Gallery is particularly appropriate. The nudity isn’t only in the flesh once indigenous to this neighborhood, but the stripped down focus of the curators, Lisa Paul Streitfeld and H.P. Garcia.

This multimedia exhibition of 40 artists brings in a bold new discussion of feminism (neo or post or whatever) into the 21st century – this time with men. The tight focus weaves together the unknown with the famous – Carolee Schneemann, Kate Millet, Mike Bidlo, Rick Prol, Martha Wilson and Richard Move — and newly risen stars such as Richard Humann and Heide Hatry, who both had outstanding solo shows at Elga Wimmer this year. All are dedicated to inner explorations of the feminine — a rare preoccupation both in the postmodernism era and the hyperactive art market that followed.

If this exhibition is saying it is time for a change, then it is also showing the way to a new gender dialogue. These strong images of the female honor the awakened serpent that Schneemann made so famous in feminist art through her Eye Body, a focal point of the show, along with the large wall mural of a pentagram bordered by Wiener’s Madonna images. A major delight is the “Origin of the World” pairing of Sophie Matisse – the great granddaughter of the modernist pioneer – with provocateur Mike Bidlo, who painted his way through modernism to the de Kooning erasures before arriving at this shared vacant space in the female womb. These two works (was it a planned collaboration or just happy accident?) launch a whole new discussion about the masculine-feminine energy exchange. Can it be conscious? This exhibition says yes, and therefore delivers a very positive view of the future of sex.

The art world has been in the doldrums since the crash of the market. We needed an exhibition like this to give us a necessary jolt. Black Madonna not only leads us to the abyss, but gives us something to talk about as we fall in. As we climb out, we are rewarded with a positive view of the future – a long-awaited gender equality.

Edward Rubin, NY Arts Magazine


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