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.
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Margaret Harrison
Intersection For The Arts


San Francisco - California - US

Dec. 10, 2009 - PRLog -- San Francisco, CA - Intersection for the Arts proudly presents The Bodies Are Back a new show from Margaret Harrison. In this exhibition, Harrison, one of Britain's best known women artists and a pioneer of feminist art, revisits the themes of her very early work exploring notions of the human body as an object of sexuality, consumption and gaze. The Bodies Are Back consists of approximately 20 works on paper (watercolor, drawing, and mixed media) that Harrison produced in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s displayed alongside approximately 25 new works created for this show. In 1971, Harrison’s work was instantly met with controversy and antagonism (the London police shut down her first solo exhibition the day after it opened feeling that its contents were too controversial). This controversy caused Harrison to abandon the issues and themes of this series. Now an established artist with work in the permanent collections of major international institutions, she is critically re-engaging with this body of work, continuing the dialogue that she began four decades ago. The Bodies Are Back opens on February 10, 2010 and runs through March 27, 2010 at Intersection for the Arts, located at 446 Valencia Street between 15th and 16th Streets. Gallery hours are Wednesdays - Saturdays, noon-5pm. The Opening Reception will take place on Wednesday, February 10th from 7pm-9pm. Admission is free and more information is available by visiting or by calling 415-626-2787 x.109.

“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.” After immediately shutting down the show, the London Police told Harrison that they didn't mind the images of women in the exhibition, rather it was the male images that they objected to.  Highlights of the show included works such as Captain America, where she depicted the American comic book icon, with large breasts, wearing stockings and stilettos, and an image of Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner dressed as a Bunny Girl. The drawing, entitled He’s Only a Bunny Boy, was stolen on the show’s only open day amongst rumors that the culprits were Playboy associates.  

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; art that transgresses boundaries of culture and discipline; artists who define, interpret and help to transform society through their work.

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.
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