Public memorial in honor of Nancy Spero
Sunday, April 18, 3:00pm
The Great Hall at Cooper Union
7 East 7th Street
New York, NY 10003
Photo © Abe Frajndlich, 1987
Galerie Lelong, the Nancy Spero & Leon Golub Foundation for the Arts, and Paul, Philip and Steven Golub are pleased to announce a public memorial in honor of Nancy Spero on Sunday, April 18th at 3:00pm at The Great Hall at Cooper Union (7 East 7th Street). Speakers will include Robert Storr, Jon Bird, Donna De Salvo, Bartomeu Marí, Benjamin Buchloh, Kiki Smith, Christopher Lyon, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and a musical performance by Nora York. A reception will follow.
Nancy Spero (b.1926), one of the most influential artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, passed away on October 18, 2009 at the age of 83. For over fifty years, Spero made the female experience central to her art's formal and thematic development. Her radical career encompassed many significant visual and cultural movements from Conceptual Art to Post-Modernism to Feminism.
After studying at the Art Institute of Chicago and l'École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Spero moved to New York in 1964. In Europe, Spero produced her first significant works, the Black Paintings—somber, figurative works allusive of existential oppositions and emotional turmoil. These works were made at a time when Pop Art and Minimalism were the focuses in the art world, marking Spero's first consistent oppositions to the prevailing conventions in art making. Nancy Spero's return to the U.S. in 1964 coincided with the ongoing Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. In this charged political climate, her passionate engagement with these issues engendered the groundbreaking aesthetic style and the political and feminist themes for which she is now known. The War Series was Spero's first significant body of work on paper, a support she would favor for the majority of her working career. Described by Spero as "broadsides," The War Series depicted women and children as v ictims of war and suffering, a theme that would occupy Spero for the next forty years.
Following The War Series, Spero produced two bodies of work: the Artaud Paintings and the Codex Artaud series, based on the French poet Antonin Artaud, whom Spero described as the "most extreme writer of the 20th Century." In reading Artaud, Spero coined the term "victimage," making a parallel between Artaud's language and her feeling of the "loss of tongue" as a female artist in a male-dominated art world. One of Spero's great inventions was the fracturing of text and image in the Codex Artaud works, which some critics have described as the first works of Post-Modernism. Following the Artaud series, Spero began work on her pioneering and critically lauded scroll series: Hours of the Night, 1974 (collection Whitney Museum of American Art), Notes in Time on Women, 1979 (collection Museum of Modern Art, New York) and Torture of Women, 1976 (collection National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa).
In 2005, Spero created Cri du Coeur, her last monumental scroll work on paper, which depicts a continuous band of ancient Egyptian female mourners from the tomb of Ramose of Thebes. The striking images in Cri du Coeur reference women mourning losses in Iraq, Kashmir, and New Orleans, at the time of the making of this work. A similarly important work, Maypole/Take No Prisoners was presented in the entrance hall of the Italian Pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale. Maypole/Take No Prisoners, a thirty-five-foot-tall hanging mobile featured severed heads dangling from red ribbons, commenting on the war in Iraq.
In 2008, the Museu d'art Contemporani Barcelona organized a full-scale retrospective, Nancy Spero: Dissidances, which traveled to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, and the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville. The Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris will present a retrospective exhibition of her work in 2010.
Nancy Spero was married to the artist Leon Golub (1922–2004) for over fifty years. In 1996, together they received the Hiroshima Art Prize—awarded to contemporary artists for their achievements in promoting world peace—and exhibited at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art. Spero is survived by her three sons—Stephen Golub of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania; Philip Golub of Paris; and Paul Golub of Paris—six grandchildren; and sister, Carol Newman of Portland, Oregon.