Women artists get a room at Sadie Coles
London gallery’s new show looks at how a wide array of women artists interpret the domestic space
The home can be both a refuge and a burden for female artists. In Virginia Woolf’s seminal feminist text, A Room of One’s Own, the British author argued that women writers needed a domestic space in order to work. Yet too often, the house is seen by some as a place where women are expected to carry out simpler or more mundane acts.
Few visitors to Sadie Coles’ new group show are likely to hold that view. The exhibition, entitled Room, on now until 18 February at the gallery's Kingly Street space in London, draws together a wide array of modern and contemporary female artists to look at the ways in which domestic space, historically a ‘female’ sphere of activity, has been imagined - from the late twentieth century to the present.
The artworks, which are either stand-alone installations or photographs, shouldn't be seen as simply vehicles for protest. Francesca Woodman’s black-and-white images, often shot in barely furnished rooms, conjure up the freedoms and snares of an adolescent mind, alone behind closed doors; Louise Bourgeois’s Cell XVII (Portrait), featuring a head inside a cage-like vitrine, could be seen as both protective and imprisoning; while Andrea Zittel’s Escape Vehicle reimagines the domestic sphere as a miniature caravan-like pod, ready to be jettisoned from our greater society.
Nan Goldin’s domestic, though far from motherly shots are on show here too, as is Sarah Lucas’s ballsy construction, Chuffing Away to Oblivion, a kind of dirty workman’s shelter, covered in nicotine deposits and wallpapered with cruddy tabloid pornography - hardly the kind of place you’d raise the kids, and perhaps that’s the point.
Room might begin with the idea of feminine domesticity, yet the works on show demonstrate how this contemporary ideal reaches far beyond the confines of the nursery, the bedroom and the kitchen sink.
For greater insight into Francesca Woodman’s work order a copy of this book; for more on Nan Goldin’s intimate take on childhood, consider Eden and After; for more on Louise Bourgeois get this edition from our Contemporary Artist Series; and for more on feminist theory within the art world get Art and Feminism.