Born in the Bronx on July 24, 1920, Bella (Savitzky) Abzug was a tireless and indomitable fighter for justice and peace, equal rights, human dignity, environmental integrity and sustainable development. Known as “Battling Bella,” and easily recognized due to her penchant for large hats, Abzug co-created and was president of the Women’s Environmental and Development Organization (WEDO). The organization was the culmination of her lifelong career where Abzug galvanized support and helped transform the United Nations agenda regarding women. She served in the U.S. congress. Today’s generations still benefits from her timeless ideals and actions.
Recognized for her distinctive figurative language, Nicole Eisenman is one of the most important painters of her generation. She captures an array of characters who range from friends to imagined heroines and tragic losers. In “Whatever Guy” (2009) Eisenman reflects an attitude of a generation: casual dismissal as a protection or coping mechanism for the dramas of modern life. Eisenman is currently enjoying her first New York museum survey exhibition at the New Museum.
In Liliane Tomasko’s latest abstract paintings her examination of domesticity, such as the unmade bed, has become more urgent and fragmented, perhaps in accordance with the times. In contrast, Shara Hughes paintings of Fauvist landscapes are dreamy and surreal; like Eisenman and Tomasko, Hughes distorts the world to gain insights into it. Although young, Eleanor Ray has already established herself as an intriguing new voice in painting. In her small canvases, Ray shows cropped scenes of quiet, unassuming interiors and exteriors, buildings and landscapes that are often important sites of personal or art historical value.
New York based Iranian artist Shirin Neshat creates video and photos that portray issues of gender and society, the individual and the group. While her narratives hint at the restrictive nature of Islamic laws regarding women, they also deliberately allow multiple readings, thus ultimately reaching towards discussions of universal conditions. In “Pulse” (2001), a woman singing alone becomes a powerful symbol of personal identity and social boundaries.
The subjects in Emily Wardill’s films include ghost stories, mental illness and religion. “All the Clothes of an Imelda I Know” (2011), is a sculpture comprised of the objects and ornate architectural models used in the film, “Full Firearms” (2011), a loosely adapted the real-life story of Sarah Winchester, the Connecticut gun heiress who, in the 1880s, built a manor to house the ‘spirits’ haunting her: the victims of her father-in-law’s arms empire. Emma Rivers’s dollhouse-like dioramas house secrets and unsettling memories in childlike yet intricate details, equipped with furnishing, lights and photographs from her past.
“If Only Bella Abzug Were Here” features works by: Nicole Eisenman, Anj Smith, Joan Levinson, Tomona Matsukawa, Eleanor Ray, Ann Craven, Rachel Selekman, Holly Coulis, Bettina Blohm, Lily Kelly Napangardi, Anna Leonhardt, Genieve Figgis, Emma Rivers, Tarra Bandet, Rachel Garrard, Sarah Crowner, Shara Hughes, Nicole Cherubini, Shirin Neshat, Emily Wardill, Kirsi Mikkola and Liliane Tomasko.