Women artists in gorilla masks?
Yes, that’s right. And please don’t think they’re playing at some juvenile game. They’re the Guerrilla Girls, and who they are, and what they do, is best defined by themselves.
“We’re a bunch of anonymous females who take the names of dead women artists as pseudonyms and appear in public wearing gorilla masks,” their website reads. “We have produced posters, stickers, books, printed projects, and actions that expose sexism and racism in politics, the art world, film and the culture at large. We use humor to convey information, provoke discussion, and show that feminists can be funny. We wear gorilla masks to focus on the issues rather than our personalities.”
And, now they’re planning a self-described “takeover” of Minnesota.
From January through March, the Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Takeover will include over 30 arts and cultural organizations in the Twin Cities and surrounding cities in celebration of the Guerrilla Girls’ 30th anniversary as an activist art collective, according to press notes. Starting Jan. 21 and 22, the official kickoff includes free exhibition openings and youth-oriented events at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minnesota Museum of American Art, and Walker Art Center.
They’ll be in Rochester on Jan. 22 at the Rochester Art Center. (See page 3 for more details.)
“We stand on the shoulders of these women,” said Megan Johnston, Rochester Art Center’s executive director.
Johnston’s history with the Guerrilla Girls goes back a long way, with an interesting pit stop in Ireland (which, if you see her, you should ask her about), and Johnston was one of the “original instigators” of the current Minnesota project.
“So, they’re coming down for a night,” Johnston said.
The visit, which will give community members a chance to see the Guerrilla Girls, meet them, and hear their thoughts as they sit (masked) on a panel, coincides with the opening of artist Amanda Curreri’s exhibition, “The Calmest of Us Would Be Lunatics.”
As it’s Curreri’s first major solo show, built around the themes of everyday activism and building one’s community, the Art Center needed her agreement to have the Guerrilla Girls there for a simple reason.
“There’s a bit of spectacle with the girls,” Johnston said.
Some of the Guerrilla Girls’ posters will be displayed, albeit in an informal way.
There will also be a new project feminist space, what Johnston called a rolling exhibit, or community wall, where everybody is allowed to display their art. That will be up from Jan. 22 through at least early May. Interested parties should reach out to her for more information.
This entire enterprise is a chance to see great art, but even more importantly a chance to connect big ideas to the specific local context of Rochester, something Johnston said is the job of a good curator.
She also said one of the things she loves about the Guerrilla Girls is how they unpack issues with humor, as serious as those issues may be.
“This is about creating a space for discussion for these important issues,” Johnston said, “but having a bit of fun is OK.”