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Feminists and formalists


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The New Zealand women’s art movement emerged in the 1970s when modernist ideas and styles were increasingly visible. Petar Vuletic had opened the Petar/James Gallery in Auckland in 1972, showing the work of predominantly male abstract painters in pursuit of aesthetic quality. Many women artists, in line with feminist reassessments of art history, believed that this notion of aesthetic quality was too narrow – that it valorised the work of male modernists to the exclusion of female artists aspiring to an alternative set of values. "Formalist" criteria seemed irrelevant when the ideas driving an artwork were social and political, especially if that artwork employed media other than paint and canvas, perhaps even existing only momentarily in the form of a performance.

Since the 1980s, it has become commonplace for artworks to be evaluated according to a variety of often unspecified criteria, often bound up with social and political interpretations rather than formal or aesthetic analysis. What effect has this erosion of the autonomy of art had on the ongoing status of the more radical feminist works of the 1970s and 1980s? How have the performances of artists like Juliet Batten stood the test of time, as against works in more traditional disciplines such as painting? And how are the abstract paintings shown at Vuletic’s gallery evaluated now, when formal values are downplayed? In addressing such questions, this paper hopes to raise the possibility of some sort of rapprochement of the aesthetic and the political, in order to find space for both feminists and formalists in New Zealand art history of the 1970s-80s.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: New Zealand art history, feminism, formalism, women's art movement, abstraction
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NB Sculpture
N Fine Arts > ND Painting
Divisions: Schools > School of Media Arts
Depositing User: Edward Hanfling
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2012 21:48
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 02:37

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