Beverly Semmes: FRP: RPF
This exhibition presents work by Beverly Semmes from her acclaimed Feminist Responsibility Project (FRP). Initiated in the early 2000s, FRP originated as a series of pornographic images culled from vintage gentlemen's magazines and "censored" by the artist with ink and paint. Continuing to speak to American society's conflicted relationship to pornographic and sexual censorship, the enlarged found images are overlaid with pools of color in shapes suggestive of vessels with occasional glimpses between brushstrokes reminding the viewer of what they cannot quite see.
A sculptor by training, Semmes has been employing massive scale, electric color, and vessel forms — such as dresses, pots, and chandeliers — to disrupt the organizational status quo. FRP:RPF is presented as a play with the notion that rationality and authority are tied to the rectilinear and the standardized. Set against the commanding perpendicularity of the concrete and glass forms of OMA's Milstein Hall, this exhibition is an interchange between art, architecture, femininity, and materiality. Tall ceramic stacks, titled Angel, Putty, Bucket, and Top Handles, (2015–18), which were constructed from dozens of small pots, greet the viewer as they enter and exit the gallery. These perversely ornate sentries stand guard over Blue Sky and Copper Pot (2019), two paintings commissioned for this exhibition, deployed in a mirror image–like placement around the center space where handmade crystal vessels sit in distinction against the space. The asymmetric and fluid forms of these crystals, such as Strange Wig, Kevin's Daisy, and Laurie Love (2006), shimmer in refractions of light, and posit whether we can recategorize these forms, not as in process or in transition, but as the determined end and on their terms. As metaphors for the female body and its characterization as a vessel of human life, the works add to Semmes' longstanding engagement with the erotics and power of materiality, texture, color, feminism, and the body politic.
Semmes's work has been in solo exhibitions at institutions such as MoMA PS1, Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia, SculptureCenter, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Wexner Center for the Arts, Artist's Space, the Fabric Workshop and Museum, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Frances Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Semmes has also taken part in a many group exhibitions, notably at Denver Art Museum, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, the Barbican Centre, Yale University Art Gallery, the Brooklyn Museum, and most recently in this year's Carnegie International. Her work was included in the infamous Bad Girls exhibition at the New Museum in 1994 and in Cornelia Butler's seminal WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution publication in 2007. She has been featured in the New York Times, ARTNews, Artforum, the New Yorker, Art in America, BOMB, Flash Art, Frieze, and many other publications. Her work is held in numerous public collections including those at the Walker Art Center, the Hammer Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the Albright Knox Art Gallery. Semmes is represented by Susan Inglett Gallery in New York and Shoshanna Wayne Gallery in Los Angeles.
This exhibition is curated by Maria Park, associate professor and director of AAP exhibitions.
Beverly Semmes will be speaking at the Becker Café, Carl Becker House, Room G50, at 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday, September 11.
Beverly Semmes: Artist Talk