Nancy Spero: Cri du Coeur
Nancy Spero, Cri du Coeur (detail), 2005, hand-printing on paper mounted on polyester poplin, 25 x 1,925 inches. © Estate of Nancy Spero. Licensed by VAGA, New York. Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York
May 18 - October 13, 2013
Nancy Spero's innovative graphic compositions and commitment to social issues rooted in gender established her as one of the leading feminist and post-modern voices. During her six-decade career, Spero (1926-2009) employed a vast and consistent vocabulary of images collected from various histories and mythologies, focusing since the mid-1970s exclusively on those depicting women's experiences, often their resilience in the face of oppression and violence. Completed in 2005, Cri du Coeur (Cry of the Heart) is Spero's last monumental work on paper. This work has been described as "a passionate cry against war, death, and destruction that is both political and personal, social and metaphysical."
The hand-printed frieze wraps around the walls at floor level of an otherwise empty gallery. The recurring figures - a group of ancient Egyptian female mourners whose origin is a painted scene in the tomb of Ramose of Thebes (14th B.C.E.) - are universal symbols of grief unbound by time and place. Their contemporary poignancy lies both in their embodiment of Spero's personal mourning for the 2004 death of her husband, artist and activist Leon Golub, as well as in their riveting correlation to the continuous stream of media images of anonymous females around the globe enduring losses of their own - news images from Iraq, Afghanistan, and post-Katrina New Orleans that initially informed Spero during the years she was making Cri du Coeur and, sadly, those still occurring and imprinting themselves daily in our hearts and minds.
Through dramatic shifts in color, tone, and density, the relentless nature of the frieze and its legibility become increasingly complex and somber. As one slowly walks along the gallery walls, looking down to decipher details, one has the realization of becoming a participant in this procession and a collective narrative of loss and memory.
This exhibition is supported by the Don and Mary Melville Contemporary Art Fund