For her solo exhibition Too Nice Too Long, Los Angeles-based artist Lara Schnitger (Dutch, b. 1969) transforms Anton Kern Gallery into the headquarters of “Suffragette City,” her traveling hybrid procession-protest piece that draws inspiration from occult rituals and uses unabashed graphic design and boundary-pushing sculpture to champion women’s rights. With elements from the procession presented as static works of art, the exhibition offers an opportunity to examine Schnitger’s brilliant sense of material, architecture, and space.
Schnitger’s sculptural practice is rooted in the contrast and union of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’. She uses rigid materials such as wood and resin in combination with soft materials like leather, fur, silk, cotton, and lycra to create sculptures that reference the female body. Pieces of lumber are fastened together to provide an underlying skeleton, while opaque and translucent materials stretch over it to form a permeable skin. The inner and outer are interdependent and require balanced tension in order to exist, suspended in time and space. The artist’s paintings and quilts are created by piecing together different patterned fabrics and incorporating text, thus doubling their functionality as art and protest sign. By pairing techniques like dying, quilting, weaving, and sewing with tough and rebellious postures and messaging, the artist pushes the expressive power of traditional crafts.
Schnitger marks the clubhouse at 16 E 55th St with a flag waving from the exterior of the building that declares “A Dress Is Not A Yes”. Within the main gallery are new quilts and ‘girl gang’ fabric paintings emblazoned with protest slogans culled from t-shirts, bumper stickers and buttons, paired with towering sculptures that boldly assert feminine power. Lined up along a wall are seven ‘slut-sticks’, wooden armatures bound with stretched fabric and leather, becoming abstract figures in stages between dress and undress. On the second floor you will find intricately-constructed oversized ‘burden’ backpacks (which will be activated throughout the run of the exhibition) and sequin paintings that capture the irreverence and spontaneity of bathroom graffiti. An ad hoc newspaper will be available at the gallery with press clippings about stagings of “Suffragette City” around the world.
Schnitger uses female sexuality and depictions of the body as a tool to challenge what is deemed acceptably feminine versus obscene. The work is playfully over-the-top and exuberant yet serious; pointedly addressing the continued struggle for women’s equality and safety in a culture of patriarchy.
Too Nice Too Long blurs the line between art and protest, sculpture and body, gallery and street. Works in the exhibition are crafted with the practical intention of being activated in a public protest. Inspired by demonstrations throughout history, from the Suffragettes to SlutWalk, FEMEN, and Pussy Riot, this evolving body of work provides a forum to discuss contemporary political and social issues, and tools to inspire and embolden a new generation of feminists.