On the 40th anniversary of Lea Vergine’s seminal book Body Art and Performance: The Body as Language (1974), Richard Saltoun Gallery presents The Body As Language: Women And Performance.
The exhibition, curated by Paola Ugolini, examines the birth and development of performance art in relation to gender, the body, language and the expression of the self. Focusing on women artists working in Italy during the 70s, the exhibition features work by Gina PANE, Ketty La ROCCA, Suzanne SANTORO and Renate BERTLMANN, together with the archival photographs of the dance performances of Trisha BROWN, Simone FORTI and Yvonne RAINER.
In addition, the exhibition looks at the enduring influence of these artists on a younger generation: Silvia GIAMBRONE, Alice SCHIVARDI and Sara GOLDSCHMIED & Eleonora CHIARI.
Gina PANE (b.1939 – d.1990): her performances have been pivotal for generations of performance artists who have explored the body in extreme situations and actions. In Action II Caso n°2 sul Ring (1976), she simulates a boxing match of four rounds in which she is the only fighter, alternating between self-wounding, gesturing, interacting with her reflection in the mirror and playing with a toy horse.
Ketty La ROCCA (b.1938 – d.1976) gives to linguistic expression her personal ‘feminine’ form, by breaking down the stereotypes of communication. In Le mie parole, e tu? (1975) her hands are symbolically connected to female labour as she performs a choreographed form of visual poetry.
Suzanne SANTORO (b.1946) was born in New York and settled in Rome, where she participated actively in Carla Lonzi’s Rivolta Femminile feminist movement. Her studies in classical art and Roman sculptures led her to publish Towards New Expression in 1974; an iconological examination of the depiction of female genitalia in classical statuary. The work was famously censored in the Artist’s Books exhibition held at the ICA in 1976.
At the 1977 premiere edition of the International Week of Performance in Bologna, Viennese artist Renate BERTLMANN (b.1943) presented her Deflorazione in 14 Stazioni. The artist penetrated 14 paper sheets wearing silicone pacifiers and fake plastic breasts, with scalpels replacing the nipples. The act of rupturing the paper replicated the sexual act of losing one’s virginity and the subsequent feelings of pain, joy, fear, and aggression.Continue Reading..