When the National Museum of Women in the Arts posed a simple question during Women’s History Month 2016 — “Can you name five women artists?” — the response from museums, galleries, and art aficionados around the world was so enthusiastic that they brought the challenge back again this year.
Throughout March people have been sharing images of art by women on social media under the #5womenartists. The UNLV Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art joined in with a series of works from its collections room. Some of the artists are local to Nevada, others live and work in different parts of the nation. All of them have a connection to Las Vegas through their presence at the Barrick. Here are five of them.
New York artist Lynda Benglis has been exploring the physical qualities of the material world since the 1960s, often working with liquids that can be poured, splashed, and manipulated before they harden into permanent shapes. “I think I always had the feeling in my work of stretching things over things,” she said during a 2015 conversation with John Baldessari for Interview magazine. “That’s kind of a painter thing, a surface thing. But I also like to wrestle with forms. I’m not a planer person. I create planes. I’m more of a proprioceptive - more like a dancer.” A veteran of numerous one-person exhibitions in the US and abroad, Benglis is represented in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
The Barrick received a small wax-on-paper Benglis piece, Untitled, 1997-98, through the generosity of New York collectors Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, along with works by other significant contemporary artists such as Richard Tuttle and Robert Barry.
Born in Luxor, Egypt, Sherin Guirguis lives and works in Los Angeles, where her large Untitled (el sokaraya) 2013 will be on view at LACMA until April 2 in its exhibition of recent donations, L.A. Exuberance.
There are similarities between Untitled (el sokareya) and the earlier Guirguis sculpture preserved at the Barrick, Untitled (echo), 2005: both artworks are made of wood and each one depends on the manipulation of flat patterns. One difference lies in the presentation. Where the LACMA Untitled is a freestanding object, the Barrick work is made so that it sits a few carefully calibrated inches off the wall, creating a shadow that seems to merge with the overlapping lines of black-painted wood.
Untitled (echo) also appeared in the traveling showcase of Southern Nevada artists curated by Dave Hickey in 2007, Las Vegas Diaspora: The Emergence of Contemporary Art From the Neon Homeland.
If you visit galleries at all in Las Vegas then you’ve probably seen the work of Wendy Kveck, a local artist who not only draws, collages, and paints, but also curates live performances that feed back into the rest of her practice. The spectacle of the screaming live actor from her Undone installation (a collaboration with another local artist, Jennifer Henry) being reinterpreted on canvas and paper for the Stanley Hall exhibition at Trifecta Gallery in 2015 is a good example of the synergy she cultivates.
Some of Kveck’s photo collages are currently being exhibited downtown on Commerce Street as part of the group show, Tilting the Basin: Contemporary Art of Nevada (through May 14, 2017). Two years ago the Barrick curated an overview of her work for its three-person show, Kveck, Stellmon & Russ: Breaks Ups & Tear Downs.
The piece in the Museum’s collection, Sister, 2014, is a vibrant combination of oil paint and felt tip pen, part of the artist’s exploration of the intersection between children’s art and the public depiction of adult women.
Victoria Reyolds moved from Las Vegas to Los Angeles after graduating from UNLV’s MFA program in 1993. In California, she became known for her meticulously opulent depictions of raw meat and fat. Painted in vivid crimson detail and housed in an ornate frame, the work at the Barrick, Ruban Rouge, 2009, is a good example of her hyper-real approach to painterly imagery. Reynolds’ work has appeared at Richard Heller Gallery, the Konsthallen Bohusläns Museum in Sweden, and the Hammer Museum, L.A.
“I’m thinking of the meat in terms of flesh, it’s all our flesh,” she told her audience during a talk at the Hammer in 2009. “It’s not just meat to be consumed, it’s also about life in the flesh.”
Six of Meghan Smythe’s ceramic heads are on view in the Barrick Museum’s current exhibition, Process, through May 13, 2017. Wearing ambiguous expressions and glazed in rainbow colors that seem to melt like wax across the hardened clay, the heads tilt suggestively on their pedestals. Are they asleep? Peaceful? Dead? “The friction between generation and decay, elegance and entropy, is what makes Smythe's work so alive and also so tough to digest,” wrote Los Angeles Times art writer Leah Ollman in 2015. “It doesn't go down easy, or at all.”