What makes art 'feminist art'? Although feminist artists do have a unique aesthetic, there can be no essential feminist aesthetic, argues Kathy Battista in this exciting new art history. Domesticity, the body, its traces and sexuality have become prominent themes in contemporary feminist practice but where did these preoccupations begin and how did they come to signify a particular type of art? Kathy Battista's (re-)engagement with the founding generation of female practitioners centres on 1970s London as the cultural hub from which a new art practice arose. Emphasising the importance of artists including Bobby Baker, Anne Bean, Catherine Elwes, Rose English, Alexis Hunter, Tina Keane, Hannah O'Shea, Kate Walker and Silvia Ziranek and examining works such as Mary Kelly's Post-Partum Document, Judy Clark's 1973 exhibition Issues, Carolee Schneemann's Meat Joy and Cosey Fanni Tutti's Prostitution, shown in 1976, Kathy Battista investigates some of the most controversial and provocative art from the era.
This book not only deals with the 'famous' art events but includes analysis of lesser-known exhibitions and performances and explains why so much feminist art has been both marginalised in art history and grossly under-represented in institutional archives and collections. Through considering British feminist art practice in relation to the other significant artistic movements of the 1970s - conceptual, performance and installation art - Kathy Battista positions feminist art as a disparate and complex entity, one that overlaps several art historical groupings and one which has evolved since its initial activities. As connections between 1970s artists and contemporary female practitioners are not usually consciously acknowledged, one of the central aims of this book is to reconnect current art practice with earlier, groundbreaking works. Primarily concerned with the feminist body as a site for making and exhibiting works, this book examines themes that look at the body as material, the body and performance, as well as the alternative creative platforms in 1970s feminist art.
Drawing on original material - never-before-seen images from artists' personal collections and commissioned interviews with prominent artists from the period - the book is an invaluable resource for artists, researchers, curators and students interested in recovering this period from the margins of art history.