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Arusha Gallery and Richard Saltoun Present BODILY OBJECTS

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Arusha Gallery and Richard Saltoun Present BODILY OBJECTS

A partnership has been announced between two internationally renowned galleries, Edinburgh based Arusha Gallery and London based Richard Saltoun. The collaboration between the two galleries sees the expansion of Arusha Gallery's Summer programme following the reopening of the gallery to the public to present the physical realisation, reimagining and expansion of Richard Saltoun's online exhibition, Bodily Objects which opens to the public on 17th July 2020.

In what is an extension of the original online exhibition curated by Philomena Epps, Bodily Objects brings together a selection of work by seven feminist artists- Helena Almeida (1934-2018), Rose English, Renate Bertlmann, Helen Chadwick (1953-1966), Judy Chicago, Alexis Hunter (1948-2014) and Carolee Schneemann (1939-2019) - exploring ideas of surrealism, sexuality, and subversion. Through avant-garde performance, photography, collage, and sculpture, each artist developed unique and experimental ways in which to represent embodiment, often conflating the corporeal with the material, through blurring or substituting the body with objects, food, and flora. Whether libidinous, absurd, or menacing, the sustained tone is one of wry humour and satire, situated in resistance to the representation of women typified by the crude male gaze.

Born in 1934, Helena Almeida was a Portuguese artist known for her work in painting, drawing, installation, sculpture, sound and video but since the 1970s especially her photography. Although Almeida always uses herself as her model, she insists that her images are not self-portraits. In her photographs she assumes positions that she has painstakingly choreographed in order to create complex visual compositions that are about space and line, as well as the relationship between the artist and the image. Sometimes she adds to these compositions by painting directly onto the photographs in bold primary blue or red or adding sculptural 3D, as illustrated in Pintura Habitada [Inhabited Painting], 1976/2015.

The pageantry of horse dressage was interpreted by Rose English as a metaphor for the fetishisation of women's bodies. The 1974 photograph Rose and Athene (1974), in which two porcelain horse statuettes are playfully positioned under the model's nude bottoms, as if saddled to ride, is indicative of her witty approach to objectification and spectacle. These white toy horses feature in much of her early work, notably in the choreographed performance Quadrille at the 1975 Southampton Horse Show, in which English dressed her six performers in leather harnesses attached to real horsehair tails and high heels made from hooves.

Renate Bertlmann began using rubber teats and condoms in the late 1970s, surveying their sensual textures and visual potential as substitutions for genitalia and erogenous zones. Akin to ready-made objects, the latex teats were also grafted onto wearable items, such as the crown of udder-like nipples in Tender Christ (1977). These photographs, captured from performances she staged in the privacy of her studio, illustrate Bertlmann's engagement with tenderness and aggression, uneasily oscillating between seduction and horror. Bertlmann's installation for the Austrian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2019, Discordo Ergo Sum comprised of 312 hand-blown Murano glass "roses", subverting the viewers expectations of the inherent fragility and beauty of a rose. Replacing the pistil with a razor-sharp blade, Bertlmann makes the flowers menacing, capable of destruction and death.

In Helen Chadwick's practice, fuelled by her engagement with decay and nature, the body is often fragmented, dismembered, or substituted altogether. The Meat Abstract (1989) Polaroid series, with offal arranged like a still-life painting, convey a simultaneously compelling and grotesque display of degendered, anonymous flesh. The notion of raw meat as a synecdoche for the human body is taken further in the blood-red Birth of Barbie (1993), the stereotypically gendered doll arranged as if mid- parturition.

Judy Chicago is a pioneering feminist artist, whose complex installations have challenged the gendered structure of contemporary society. With Red Flag (1971), Chicago makes public that most intimate act of menstruation: showing the removal of a used and bloodied tampon from her vagina. The role of women as 'mothers' and agents of reproduction is often celebrated but the physical traces of this ability are ignored, if not made to seem shameful.

Alexis Hunter used photography in a distinctly powerful way, as a tool to take control of her own sexuality and buck the expected norms of society and gender stereotypes. Through the use of series and narrative sequences she exposes the tyranny domestic violence (Domestic Warfare, 1975), and the exploitation of women (The Model's Revenge, 1974).

Carolee Schneemann is known for her discourses on the body, sexuality and gender. Perhaps most closely identified with Body Art and as a female performance artist, her work from the 1960s and 1970s is inherently erotic and sensual; rejecting as it does the traditional concept of the "repressed" female sexual being and challenging notions of gender. Her series 'Ice Naked Skating' (1972) harks both to the female liberation of the 1970s and movement of people. An American living in London, the artist was homesick for the seasons of New York state and pleasure of winter sports. The sequence was photographed by Anthony McCall.

Agnieszka Prendota, Creative Director at Arusha Gallery said: "I feel honoured and moved to have the opportunity to present the works of artists, whose practice has been so formative both within the history of art and for me personally, in Scotland. The way they encouraged us to negotiate our place as women in society and within our bodies. I think it is wonderful that through the practices and works of these amazing artists, we get to celebrate and remind ourselves how far we have come and what is still to do."

Niamh Coghlan, Director, Richard Saltoun said: "To have Bodily Objects, an online exhibition curated by Philomena Epps, realised in the physical form, shows the expanding, collaborative relationship between galleries and artists during this tumultuous time. We are so pleased to be working with Arusha Gallery to have this presented in 3-dimensional form!"


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