DECEMBER 2006/JANUARY 2007

TEN CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS

ALL INEXPLICABLE, INSPIRING, AND FEMALE

selected by Jenelle Porter

DISCUSSED:

  1. Andrea Bowers
  2. Nicole Cherubini
  3. Anne Chu
  4. Trisha Donnelly
  5. Rachel Harrison
  6. Jessica Jackson Hutchins
  7. Liz Larner
  8. Zoe Strauss
  9. Rosemarie Trockel
  10. Charline von Heyl

New York art critic Jerry Saltz is known for his regular (and generous) rants about the lack of attention paid to women artists in the art world, especially in the oversaturated New York art world. In a piece he wrote for the Village Voice critiquing the dearth of women who appeared on the various top one hundred (or top ten, or top thirty-two) lists of 2005, Saltz supported his outrage with the following bleak numbers: only nine women made the list of eighty-four artists and art-world muckety-mucks published in Art and Auction’s “Power Issue”; ArtReview’s “Power 100” list featured only nineteen women; and in the top ten lists compiled by eleven different curators for Artforum, only eleven of a hundred and ten slots were filled by women.

One might conclude from these statistics that lists are by definition arbitrary and stupid. One might also conclude that women artists don’t fare well on arbitrary, stupid lists. When asked by the Believer to compile a subjective but hopefully not stupid list of ten up-and-coming/underrecognized artists, I decided to narrow the selection process by choosing all women. Yes, this is another arbitrary way to make a list, but when it comes to frontin’ for the ladies, I can’t neglect such an opportunity. This is not to say that the work these women produce can’t achieve the recognition it deserves on its own merits. So why the consistent dis from the bullshit power structure? Honestly, I’m not sure I can articulately answer this in the given space. Let’s simply say that, despite the paltry female showing on those 2005 best-of lists, the art scene today is one where the best galleries are owned by women (Andrea Rosen, Metro Pictures, Paula Cooper, Regen Projects, Barbara Gladstone, to name a few), where most of my museum colleagues are women, where art schools are full of women. You’re free to draw your own conclusions from the disjunction.

So while acknowledging that all lists are subjective and exclusionary, here are the reasons (besides gender) I chose whom I chose for my list. I’ve tried to select artists who form what I do as a curator, and who make work that forces me to keep coming back to it with more questions. Some of the artists I know personally and have worked with over the years; some I chose because I’m just starting to discover their work and sense that I’ll be wanting to spend a lot of time with it in the future. When people ask why I like the work of a particular artist, I’m often hard-pressed to deliver an articulate speech on his or her work’s merits. The best explanation I can offer is this: my favorite artists make art that is inexplicable, even to someone like me, who spends a lot of time specifically thinking about and looking at art. If you could really and truly explain the art’s effect on you, what would be the sense of continuing to ponder it? At the end of the day, these are ten artists who inspire me, who teach me things that I need to know, and who keep me thinking.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

Jenelle Porter is associate curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She has worked in New York, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and now the city of brotherly love. She considers herself a Philavangelist.

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