Alison Jacques Gallery is delighted to announce a solo exhibition of work by the late New York feminist artist Hannah Wilke (1940-1993). This is the first solo exhibition of Hannah Wilke's work to be shown in the UK. The exhibition will focus on Wilke's early work, covering the period from the beginning of 1960s through to the end of the 70s. Throughout her career, Hannah Wilke dealt with issues of feminism and femininity. She began her career as a sculptor during the 1960s, when she started to make the vaginal ceramic forms that would reappear throughout her work. The body, in most instances her own, became her primary subject matter and the springboard for ceramic sculptures, latex wall pieces, chewing gum sculptures, and numerous performances, photographs, films and two dimensional works. This exhibition includes a selection of Wilke's early sculptures, films, drawings and collages alongside photographic works from her S.O.S. Starification Object Series.
Wilke's terracotta floor piece 159 One-Fold Gestural Sculptures (1973-74) is positioned centrally in the main space of the gallery. The terracotta forms are gestural folded shapes, moulded by hand and arranged in a loose conglomeration forming a large rectangle at the edges. Wilke used vaginal iconography as an assertion of female presence; her ceramic and latex forms could be read as vulva, womb or tiny wounds. The colours and texture suggest raw anatomy and skin, and the folded layers clearly mimic the appearance of the labia. Stretching across the entire back wall of the gallery is Wilke's large-scale multiple latex wall piece Ponde-r-rosa 3: Double Sun (triangle), Blue Champagne (square), Broken Blossoms (circle) (1975). Wilke's first latex pieces were folded forms similar to her clay pieces. Later she adapted her technique to the liquid property of the material, folding the latex into strips or circles, folding and clipping the strips together with press studs, and hanging the whole from drawing pins. Wilke's large hanging wall sculpture Ponde-r-rosa 3: Double Sun (triangle), Blue Champagne (square), Broken Blossoms (circle) is a major fifteen-part work consisting of circular latex pieces in soft yellows, pinks and greens.
Wilke is possibly best known for the photographs included in her self-described "performalist" self-portrait S.O.S Starification Object Series. In these seminal images, Wilke covered her body with the small vulva forms she shaped from used chewing gum. The gums, mimicking the larger form of the folded sculptures, represent scars or growths and contrast with Wilke's flirtatious advertisement style glamour poses. "I chose gum because it's the perfect metaphor for the American woman - chew her up, get what you want out of her, throw her out and pop in a new piece," said Wilke. A number of works featuring images from the S.O.S series are included in this exhibition. Two kneaded eraser works Needed-Erase-Her Series, #1 (1974), and Needed-Erase-Her Series, #2 (1974), are also exhibited. In these works, Wilke configures tiny folded kneaded erasers on square wood panels sometimes in uniform rows, other times in tightly clustered groups. The exhibition also features a selection of Wilke's collages and single chewing gum pieces. Inspiration point (1974) and Dublin Castle (1975) combine Wilke's iconographic kneaded eraser sculptures as humorous groupings on antique postcards.
The films in the second gallery document two of Wilke's performances, in which she always appeared often partly or completely naked. Gestures (1974) consists of four segments in which Wilke stares directly in camera. The artist rubs and pulls at her face, repeating a series of movements which result in the same poses and facial expressions over and over again. The film of the artist's performance Intercourse With… (1978) signals Wilke's transition from sculpture to performance. In this work, Wilke listened to a loop of selected messages left on her answering machine over the course of several years by former and current lovers, relatives, friends while undressing to reveal their names spelled out all over her upper body. In the same space, two photographic portraits pieces showing the artist with her mother, Selmar Butter, are from a body of work in which Wilke charted her mother's struggle and eventual death from cancer.
Hannah Wilke was born in New York in 1940. She lived and worked in New York until her death from lymphoma in 1993 at the age of 53. Her work is represented in the collections of The Solomon R.Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and The Walker Art Center Minneapolis. A retrospective of Wilke's work was mounted by Artrium-Centro Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporaneo, Vitoria, Spain, in October 2006 and her work was recently featured in the critically acclaimed exhibition WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.