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Nancy Spero

International Women’s Day, observed on March 8, is when we are invited to reflect on gender equity on a global scale. It’s a tricky ask, as each nation is ruled by the singularities of its context. Everywhere, there’s progress to celebrate and setbacks, sometimes of the deadly sort, to denounce. Increasingly, it’s become a day to examine the inclusivity of our definition of womanhood, what criteria defines and binds these billions of individuals.

The jury on that is perpetually out, but a uniting thread seems like the experience of being acted upon by systems of power. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court stripped Americans of their constitutional right to an abortion and, right now, women in Iran are heroically demanding the basest human dignities.

The complexities of womanhood are familiar fodder for the art world, which has always had artists and curators use their platform to educate on the diversity of experiences possible. 

Below are a few shows on view during Women’s History Month that articulate the subject with elegance. 

Nancy Spero at Galerie Lelong & Co.

Galerie Lelong & Co., New York is staging a solo exhibition of works by the late artist Nancy Spero titled, “Woman as Protagonist”. Over several decades, Nancy Spero tackled the interconnected issues of sexism, racism, and classism through paintings, sculptures, and installations that each conveyed her ceaseless outrage at history’s treatment of women. Popular culture, art history, and totemic women leaders mingle in an oeuvre that, in all its disparate forms, suggested a common root of inequity.

The works on display at Galerie Lelong were created between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s, the last two decades of Spero’s life. Despite the heavy subject matter — she often referenced historical atrocities — Spero preferred a light color palette and liberated brushstroke. It’s a comforting encouragement against nihilism in the face of oppression. As she is quoted in the gallery’s press materials, “these collages of handprint figures are superimposed in fast rhythms to increase the tempo of actions of women in narrative/history.” 

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