Nancy Spero. Dissidances
Mignon Nixon, Benjamin Buchloh, Hélène Cixous, Nancy Spero
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 2008
out of print
Taken from the text by Hélène Cixous for the catalogue, “Dissidances”, the title of the exhibition, suggests a potential reading which subsumes two basic aspects of the artist’s work: its critical, non-conformist nature in terms of the politico-artistic situation she has lived through during her career and the importance of movement and of the body as vehicles for articulating her discourse.
In an interview conducted with the Art Newspaper in 2007, Nancy Spero commented that her art was intended to be ‘something that would not be acceptable in the usual daily, ordinary, polite way of communicating’. She made this statement on the occasion of her installation entitled Maypole: Take No Prisoners, 2007, at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. This large-scale work comprised a ten-foot metal pole which functioned as the structural spine for a web of silk ribbons and steel chains. It appears now as the culmination of Spero’s first ever major retrospective at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. The metal and silk cords descend to just above the height of the viewer bearing the shapes of human heads cut out from aluminium. Dangling from blood-red ribbons, some of these ghoulish heads are shown with their tongues sticking out as a sign of the body in distress. The overall appearance of the work resembles a macabre trophy of torture due to the strange conflation of the associations of festive play and human execution. An unsettling vision planted in a museum renowned for exhibiting political art, it is certainly a fitting example of what Spero meant by creating an unacceptable and impolite work. With its vitriolic anger and polemical zeal, it harks back to the artist’s earlier ‘War Series’ of drawings which she completed in the late 60s in response to the Vietnam War.