The New Transfeminist Art Exhibit In Chelsea That You Need to See
If you find yourself deep in the bowels of Chelsea’s art district on a Thursday night, you’re sure to find yourself among groups of well dressed art lovers gripping plastic cups of free wine and bobbing through openings. Exhibitions open every week and show off an eclectic mix of contemporary art that, if nothing else, will give you something to sip your wine to as you contemplate life. Within this labyrinth, one exhibition stands out for its heightened aggression and urgency. A visual history of protest movements greets passersby upon entering Chelsea’s Andrew Kreps Gallery that’s been collected and curated by LA-based artist Andrea Bowers—and what a history it is. “It spans from the 1800s until now so it encompasses many different countries and cultures,” the artist explained at the opening. “It includes socialism, anarchism, workers’ rights issues, immigrant justice issues—everything. It just goes on and on.”
The rich cultivation of protest art is titled “Whose Feminism Is It Anyway?,” but don’t go looking for Wayne Brady or Ryan Stiles. The exhibit focuses on transfeminism and transactivism, filling a much-needed niche that has gone overlooked in the art world. One of the most striking sections of the exhibition, a collaboration with artist and organizer Ada Tinnell, houses large-scale photographs of three American trans activists of color: CeCe McDonald, Johanna Saavedra, and Jennicet Gutiérrez. For Bowers, these portraits represent a chance to twist the timeline of activism and inject trans bodies into the narrative. “There are very few political graphics that empower women instead of objectify women,” she said about the exhibition. “I was trying to take an already limited grouping of powerful women artists who are representing radical political positions, but mess with history a bit.”
Alongside this alternate history she’s created are a number of striking art pieces that target everything from the male gaze, trans hate crimes, cisfeminism, and more. Outside of the central gallery space and around a corner, a confetti wall hides one of the most essential pieces in the exhibition. A single projector screens a video of three women activists engaged in a roundtable discussion about gender, black liberation, the prison industrial complex, and immigration, among other topics. The women include CeCe and Jennicet from the portraits, as well as Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter. Together, the screening and the artwork support Bowers’ central vision for the exhibition—and her role as an artist.
“I think one of our powers as artists is to make images that reach out to people. That’s what we do—we make images, right? So you have to do the most that you can with what art does best,” she revealed while looking around at the packed crowd that had gathered for her opening. “Both the digital archive and physical archive become visual historical records, so I’m trying to insert these politics of transfeminism and transactivism into history. I’m just using art to do it.”
“Whose Feminism Is It Anyway?” will be open until March 26 at the Andrew Kreps Gallery at 537 W 22nd St. For more information, you can visit their website.
Images courtesy of the artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.
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