Hannah Wilke (b. 1940, New York, USA; d. 1993, Houston, Texas, USA) was an American artist whose practice included assemblage, drawing, installation, sculpture, painting, performance, photography and video. Wilke's work was intimately bound to her body, and her practice exemplified a powerfully gendered critique not only of society but also of art. Gestural processes are consistent throughout Wilke's oeuvre in both her works on paper and radical sculptural mediums: ceramic, erasers, gum, latex and terracotta. Innovative and controversial throughout her life, Wilke is considered the first feminist artist to use vaginal imagery in her work, and her place in 20th-century art continues to be established since her death.
Some of Wilke's best known works include the S.O.S. Starification Object Series (1974 - 75) a photographic series in several iterations in which Wilke tempts the viewer's voyeuristic gaze in pin-up poses, yet disrupts the sensual aura with her gum sculptures that were chewed and kneaded into yonic shapes and strategically placed around her body; and Gestures (1974), a videotaped performance and photographic work in which over the course of thirty-five silent minutes the artist stares directly at the camera, repeatedly rubbing and pulling at her face, in a series of evocative movements, poses, and facial expressions.
Wilke's work has been written about extensively. Monographs include Hannah Wilke, Nancy Princenthal, (Prestel, 2010); Hannah Wilke: Making Myself into a Monument, in Gestures, written and edited by Tracy Fitzpatrick, (Neuberger Museum of Art, 2010); and Hannah Wilke, A Retrospective, text by Joanna Frueh, (University of Missouri Press, 1989).
Wilke will receive an extensive survey at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, opening in September 2020, which will be the first major presentation of the artist’s work in the United States in over ten years. Key solo exhibitions during her lifetime included Hannah Wilke Starification Photographs and Videotapes at Fine Arts Gallery, University of California, Irvine (1976) and Hannah Wilke: A Retrospective at the University of Missouri (1989). Major solo presentations of her work since her death include a touring exhibition of Intra-Venus (1994 - 1997) and Hannah Wilke: Gestures, Neuberger Museum of Art, New York (2008).
Recent major group exhibitions include: Invisible City: Philadelphia and the Vernacular Avant-garde, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, USA (2020); The world exists to be put on a postcard. Artists' postcards from 1960 to now, The British Museum, London, UK (2019); Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition Inspired by Her Writings, Tate St Ives, UK (2018); Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason, 1950 - 1980, Met Breuer, New York (2017); Generation Loss: 10 Years of the Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf (2017); Campaign for Art, SFMOMA, San Francisco (2016); The Imaginary Museum, Tate Liverpool, UK (2015) toured to MMK, Frankfurt and Centre Pompidou-Metz, Metz (2016); and Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women 1947-2016, Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel, Los Angeles (2016).
The Hannah Wilke Collection and Archive, Los Angeles was founded in 1999 by Hannah Wilke's sister Marsie Scharlatt and her family, and has been represented by Alison Jacques Gallery since 2009. Solo exhibitions at Alison Jacques Gallery have included Hannah Wilke (2018); Hannah Wilke: Sculpture 1960s - '80s (2014); Hannah Wilke: Selected work from the '60s (2012); Hannah Wilke: Elective Affinities (2011) and Hannah Wilke (2007).
Wilke's work has been acquired by major museums worldwide including: Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.