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The Gallery at Intersection Presents The Bodies Are Back by Margaret Harrison
British artist and feminist art pioneer, Margaret Harrison, revisits the provocative themes of her early work.
“I realized that my potential audience couldn't take the work at that point in time; there was no context for the work, and this propelled me into another strategy and direction to try to understand the world I was living in. My feeling is that the context is right for this work, and the new work, now.” - Margaret Harrison
With the burgeoning feminist consciousness of the 1960's and 1970's, Harrison utilized her years of formal art training at London’s Royal Academy to turn sexuality on its head through the body of work she produced at that time. Her infamous first solo exhibition in 1971 was held at the Motif Editions Gallery in London and featured works that, in Harrison’s words, “tread the fine line between irony, sexuality, transgender, transvestism, power, masculinity, objectification, and exploitation.”
Harrison basically buried the drawings for two and a half decades until she was persuaded that they could be viewed in a different light: where the humor could be appreciated and sexuality and identity could be explored in relation to images in popular culture. Harrison exhibited a couple of pieces from her late 1960’s/early 1970’s series at U.C. Davis in 1993; Manchester Metropolitan University in 1998; then the Woodruff Art Center in Atlanta, GA in 2000 to test responses from a younger generation. The student groups and younger artists responded to the work with genuine excitement. This reaction from a younger generation, who had an appropriate socio-political and cultural context to look at the populist imagery in Harrison’s work in a different light, reinvigorated her to re-engage with the older work. Although her very strong sociological and political beliefs have always informed her work, the decision to revisit and readdress the thematic emphases of the early series was inspired by the evolution in art production and the adoption and appropriation of certain more populist styles by the art world and art-going public today. This exhibition is not a retrospective, but rather a necessary reinvestigation of work that at the time did not have the proper context to be appreciated and understood.
The Bodies Are Back, demonstrates that the issues and themes Harrison investigated decades ago and continues to investigate today are not historicized and impertinent, but rather entirely relevant to our time and age.
Intersection first worked with Harrison in 2002 on a project entitled Beautiful Ugly Violence that culminated in a solo exhibition in the Intersection Gallery in Spring 2004. Working in painting (oil and watercolor) and collage, Harrison utilized months of research gathered by staff and interns to explore the intricate relationships between violence in the domestic realm and in the larger global economic/political sphere and trived to portray the complexity of these factors through her artwork. Hers is an art of provocation and displacement, of conceptual and visual systems in which the gears do not quite mesh. In her calm and balanced compositions, Harrison injects a critical perspective that may escape the eye on first glance. Yet it is in this tension of beauty and criticism, aesthetics and politics, that her work exudes its power and persuasiveness.
"Pioneering, sixtysomething artist Margaret Harrison kicks ass in her own way. Her deceptively lush and colorful new exhibit ...hints at danger hidden by beauty."
- San Francisco Arts Monthly on Harrison's Beautiful Ugly Violence, 2004
MARGARET HARRISON was born in 1940 in Wakefield, U.K. She studied at the Carlisle College of Art, England (1957-61), Royal Academy Schools, London (1961-64), and the Academy of Art in Perugia, Italy (1965). She is a research Professor at the Manchester Metropolitan University and The Summer Arts Institute of California, held at U.C. Davis. In 1970, she was one of the founders of the first London Women’s Liberation Art Group. She has produced bodies of work dealing with homeworkers, rape, domestic abuse, war’s impact on women, fame and celebrity status, and beauty as depicted by the cosmetics industry. Her work is in the public collections of the Tate Gallery, Arts Council of England, Künsthaus Zurich, Victoria & Albert Museum, and U.C. Davis. Her work has been the subject of numerous critical essays and reviews, including ones published in The Village Voice, The New Yorker, Time Out, and the Guardian (UK). Noted theorists and historians Lucy Lippard, Penelope Shackelford, Suzanne Davies, and Peter Suchin have all written on Harrison’s work. Some of her early controversial drawings were included in the recent traveling exhibition WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, an exhibition curated by Connie Butler, drawing curator of New York’s MoMA. Margaret Harrison also recently participated in the 11th International Istanbul Biennial this past fall. Exhibiting with 70 internatioanally reknown artists and artist collectives who have attracted acclaim in the contemporary art scene, Margaret Harrison was the sole British representative.
THE GALLERY AT INTERSECTION develops and presents brand new installations and exhibitions that provide a resource of visual ideas and a platform for communications;
INTERSECTION FOR THE ARTS is San Francisco's oldest alternative non-profit art space (est. 1965) and has a long history of presenting new and experimental work in the fields of literature, theater, music and the visual arts, and also in nurturing and supporting the Bay Area's cultural community through service, technical support, and mentorship programs. Intersection provides a place where provocative ideas, diverse art forms, artists, and audiences can intersect one another.
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Intersection for the Arts is San Francisco's oldest alternative art space (est. 1965) and has a long history of presenting new and experimental work in the fields of literature, theater, music, dance, and the visual arts.