The Alternating Realities of Lynn Hershman Leeson
Bridget Donahue, formerly a director at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, is opening a massive New York gallery with a refreshingly eclectic program. “I’m drawn to those who engage with the long game,” says the Iowa City native, who will champion artists of all kinds — older, under-the-radar, anti-establishment — who might otherwise get sidelined in Chinatown’s trend-heavy scene. Her debut exhibition will celebrate the work of Lynn Hershman Leeson, a 73-year-old artist whose prescient mixed-media creations began addressing the relationship between gender and technology as early as the 1960s. Following that, Donahue will host a show featuring the work of the artist and fashion designer Susan Cianciolo, whose homespun zines, pillows and clothing demonstrate artisanal flair and a subversive sensibility that fits the space.
Civic Radar, a comprehensive, long-overdue retrospective of her work, presents the remarkable breadth of her thinking about art, technology, politics and the increasingly elastic and complex definitions of what constitutes identity and being, thinking that has always been timely. Perceptively curated by Peter Weibel, himself a pioneering advocate for new media, and Andreas Beitin of the ZKM (Center for Art and Media), Karlsruhe, in collaboration with the Deichtorhallen/Sammlung Falckenberg, a version of it will travel to Hamburg in May 2015, as well as to Modern Art Oxford, UK. Shamefully, Hershman Leeson has yet to receive a similarly indepth assessment in the US, although her work will be the inaugural show at Bridget Donahue, a new gallery opening this February on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Hershman Leeson these days is deeply concerned with bio-politics. Her simulated laboratories, her black comedies – or not so comedic – address the ethical and pragmatic quandaries and potential disasters, as well as the enormous possibilities, that scientific breakthroughs have raised, with an even clearer, more vigilant eye. One reason why her work continues to matter is that it has always reflected its present, looking towards the future, with criticality and apprehension, but not despair, believing that we can do better, that awareness will ultimately be our salvation, however uncertain that future is. Read the full article.