365 Days of Art: May 17 – The Guerrilla Girls Are Born!

May 17, 1984

The Guerrilla Girls are born!

The backstory:

An International Survey of Painting and Sculpture opens on this day at the Museum of Modern Art. Curator Kynaston McShine writes that any artist not included in the show should rethink “his” career.

The exhibit features 169 artists. All are white. All are from the United States or Europe. Only 13 are women. As a direct response, the Guerrilla Girls form. They are an anonymous group of female artists who wear gorilla masks and use the pseudonyms of dead female artists when they appear in public. They use humor and a sense of mystery to call attention to sexism and racism in the art world, and in the culture at large. Their favored tools are theatrical performances, posters, billboards, and gorilla masks.

I saw one of the two founding members of the Guerrilla Girls speak last week at Tacoma Art Museum. Kathe Kollwitz particularly mentioned that this week was their 30th anniversary. She said she thought they’d just make two posters, but thirty years later, there’s still so much to say. That’s good for us, because the Guerrilla Girls aren’t going anywhere, but bad for us, because that means sexism and racism are still in play.

I love to write about artists who are female, gay, of color, or otherwise outside of the recognized mainstream. When I find an event of note that involves these groups, I always include it. Although this blog has featured mostly white, male artists, it’s because it’s so difficult to find concrete information on other demographics. So many events go unheralded and therefore undocumented.