A public garden & cultural center

Nancy Spero

Outcasts: Women in the Wilderness
Glyndor Gallery | April 8–July 9, 2017

Pictured above:
Cumulus, 2000
Handprinting and printed collage on paper
97½" x 20"
Courtesy The Nancy Spero and Leon Golub Foundation for the Arts and Galerie Lelong, New York, NY

As an artist, feminist and lifelong activist, Nancy Spero researched the obscured histories of women to create a figurative cast of characters, a kind of repertory company, culled from many eras and cultures. Her lexicon focused on the gesturing female figure as the protagonist, moving across space and defying the strictures of linear time by mixing historical narratives, drawing equally from ancient working processes and formats with her activist orientation and an ongoing questioning of the formation and construction of memory and representation, particularly the representation of women.

The three vertical scrolls featured in Outcasts embody Spero’s themes. Masha Bruskina/Vulture Goddess (1996), features an emblematic image of two ancient Egyptian vulture goddesses, embracing a newspaper image of an execution. Relief paintings of these deities, symbols of motherly protective care for the dead, are found on walls of ancient Egyptian tombs. Masha Bruskina was a nurse and leader of the Minsk (Belarus) resistance movement during World War II; a 17-year-old Communist partisan, she posed as a gentile in order to help wounded Soviet prisoners escape from Nazi-held territories. Imprisoned and tortured, she did not divulge the names of members of her group; she was publicly hanged in 1941. In Spero’s work, her image is named and seems to float in a field of blue, gently raised upward by the winged goddesses.

In stark contrast, La Folie III (2002) features a wildly ecstatic ensemble of ancient Greek Gorgons, writhing snakes, running scarabs and loping, three-legged, prehistoric pictographs. Rhythmically repeated figures intersect, implying multiple meanings of unhinged madness and passionate love. Cumulus (2000), evokes clouds heaped on each other above a flat plane of high grasses along the Nile. Scrambling Greek and Egyptian myths of cyclical resuscitation and regeneration, a hieroglyph of Nekhebet appears on the bottom; she is the queen and nurturing guide of the underworld, giving rise to tiny flying Gorgons, numerous Greek dildo dancers and modern acrobats whirling and performing backflips.

Nancy Spero’s groundbreaking career encompassed significant visual and cultural movements, including Conceptual Art, Postmodernism and Feminism. Her lexicon was derived from an immersion in the history of images from Egypt, classical antiquity, prehistory and contemporary news media. She combined, fractured and repurposed found imagery and adopted text to comment on contemporary and historical events, such as the extermination of Jews during the Holocaust, the monstrosities of the Vietnam War, and the torture of women in Chile. With raw intensity, Spero’s works on paper and her installations persist as unapologetic statements against the pervasive abuse of power. Major monographic exhibitions of Spero’s works have been shown at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; Serpentine Galleries, London, England; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Spain; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain; Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville, Spain; and the Venice Biennale, Italy.


Pictured above:
Masha Bruskina/Vulture Goddess, 1996
Handprinting and printed collage on paper
72½" x 19½"
Courtesy The Nancy Spero and Leon Golub Foundation for the Arts and Galerie Lelong, New York, NY

Learn more about the artist here

The Arts at Wave Hill are supported by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc.; Michael J. Shannon; Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; New York Community Trust Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; The Pollock-Krasner Foundation; The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; and by the Cathy and Stephen Weinroth Commissioning Fund for the Arts.