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Nancy Spero: Torture of Women Hardcover – April 30, 2010


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Review

Made almost thirty years ago Nancy Spero's Torture of Women is a seminal work in the history of contemporary art. A model of how appropriated words and images from multiple sources can be spliced and shaped into a forceful, coherent statement about the sexual, social, political, and existential dilemmas and dynamics of the modern world, Spero's piece is at the same time among the most significant precursors of the intertextual practices that are are now regarded as quintessentially post-modern. Alas, the on-going abuse of women in places where they openly contest patriarchy or are the unruly targets of its authoritarian impulses means that Torture of Women is every bit as current as it was when it was first made. Someday the hatred and cruelty inscribed in Spero's work may be a thing of the past, but so long as they blight the world, and so long as women confront state violence with the courage that Spero also commemorates, this work will be a testament to the fact that committed art can speak truth to power and does so most effectively when speaking with the greatest formal, theoretical and poetic sophistication. --Robert Storr, Critic and Dean of the Yale School of Art

Nancy Spero was an artist who made work because a principle motivated her and not because the market beckoned. Her work is physically substantial and full of detail. It's the kind of art that lives extra-poorly in JPEG and that is often too delicate or too light-sensitive to be on regular view.<P> Fortunately Siglio Press has come out with a book that carefully 'reproduces' one of Spero's major works, 1976's Torture of Women. (The work is in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada.) Spero described the work simply: 'Torture of Women' records case histories, documenting the brutalizing and mistreatment of women. It humanizes evil with urgency and confrontation. It is one of those artworks with which policymakers should have to spend time. <P> The book, available here, includes details of every panel from Torture of Women, Spero's 'footnotes' for the work, 40 years worth of Spero's thoughts and quotables on art and outrage (for this alone this book belongs in artist's studios) and a panel-by-panel examination of Torture of Women by Diana Nemiroff, the curator who acquired the work for the National Gallery of Canada. <P> The book is thorough and thoughtful. I wish there were more single-object books such as this, especially about works of art that engage with timely sociocultural and sociopolitical issues. --Modern Art Notes, Tyler Green

About the Author

NANCY SPERO (1926-2009) is regarded as a pioneer in feminist art who has had a profound influence on subsequent generations of women artists. After working for almost twenty-five years in relative obscurity, her work received considerable international acclaim with more than a dozen solo museum exhibitions around the world, including a limited retrospective scheduled for Fall 2010 at Centre Pompidou in Paris. In addition to solo shows at the ICA in London, MOCA in Los Angeles, the New Museum in New York, among others, her work has been included in numerous group exhibitions including, most recently, WACK: Art and the Feminist Revolution, the Whitney Biennial 2006, and Think with the Senses Feel with the Mind: Art in the Present Tense at the 52nd Venice Biennale.
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