Review of ‘49.5’ at 601Artspace

Review of ‘49.5’ at 601Artspace
“49.5” exhibition at 601Artspace

49.5 at 601Artspace

The show’s title, ‘49.5’, refers to the 2018 United Nations census—where almost fifty percent of the global population was counted as women. In criminal contrast, women still —bafflingly— hold less than 24% of our national political offices worldwide. In an effort to turn the tide, artists and exhibition organizers Susan Hamburger and Jessica Hargreaves collaborated with 10 female artists to create an exhibition in the style of 18th-century salons presented in aristocratic, victorian settings—attempting to undermine the historical narrative and reset the record.

Anyssa Ng’s Empress V and Melora Kuhn’s Toile Bust present women in regal poses and adornment. Ng’s ‘silhouette images’ are tied to identities and the history of Hong Kong, combining period European fashion with traditional Chinese costume. Kuhn’s bust features a figure with a pastoral scene painted across her face and neck in the manner of Delft Blue Pottery. Both works appear to reclaim women’s position in the historic imagery of the Western gaze.

Ancient imagery also features in Roya Farrasat’s Women Guilded, 12 works on paper that capture images of female deities including Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of love and fertility; Thalia, the Greek muse of comedy and poetry; and Haliya, the pre-colonial Philippine goddess of the moon. The golden figures are regally framed within the red arching painted on the gallery walls invoking colonial-era museum halls.

Hamburger and Hargreave’s work takes a central position in the show, with the works Covid Map, Seat of Power, and Ultra White forming a collaborative tableau. Covid Map —credited to both artists— shows a global map in antique guise, with six female heads replacing the classical four winds blowing the now-classic image of the covid 19 virus across the world. Hargreave’s Seat of Power presents an antique chair with acrylic and resin resting atop a three-stepped pedestal. One assumes the throne is reserved for a member of the matriarchy. Hamburger’s Ultra White consists of two paper clay urns, in soft pink flanking the chair in the middle. Overall, the scene presents an image of female dominion, filling the social gap still maintained today using the visual rhetoric of colonialism.

Nov. 13th, 2020 – Feb 28th, 2021