The 1980s were a decade of meteoric development, especially in the art world. With consumerism and profit becoming the defining criteria of anything successful, some artists still managed to retain a revolutionary and unique flavor in their work. And the 80s would not be remembered as they are without the quick evolution of feminist art or art by women. Some of these artists were bold and unapologetic to the core, marking the realm of art with their beautiful art and powerful messages. Here are 5 such women of the 80s who you can’t help but admire.
Louise Bourgeois was a French American artist best known for her sculptures and installation art but also excelled in painting and print-making. The themes of her work delved into childhood trauma, women vs domesticity, fears and anxieties, friendships, and sexuality & the body. In fact, one of her most famous pieces, the colossal spider sculptures, apparently symbolizes the feelings of threat and protection from a spider, which Bourgeois linked to her experiences with her mother. In 1982, at the age of 70, she dominated the center stage with a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, and people were left in awe at the jarringly deep meanings in her creations.
The creator of magnificent and interesting paintings, American artist Marilyn Minter specializes in a photorealism style that blurs the line between commercial and fine art. She began her career as a photographer but came into the spotlight in the 1980s with her approach to sensual subjects like the female body, sexual power, and pornography. She has the kind of art that would force you to look at it with its slick, hedonistic, hyper-realistic, and wet aesthetic. Her paintings show only a small part of the entire picture, a small limb of the body, or just a set of lips, almost always caught in an erotic motion. While she gained heavy criticism for her chosen topics in the 80s, clearly because of social censorship, they are the very thing that make her work so powerful and recognizable.
If you have a list of extremely unique artists, add Barbara Kruger to it. She’s an American conceptual artist who combines type and image in bold graphic art to directly comment on feminist cultural issues. With her primary aesthetic being black-and-white accentuated with red, she layers provocative, eye-opening short phrases on mass-media images. At one glance you can recognize the advertising and propaganda visuals that force the audience to think upon the constructs of gender, identity, power, and consumerism. The political undertones of her work are enough to understand her significance in an era of resistance and revolution.
This American abstract painter is best known for her large-scale, shaped canvas works (going beyond the traditional rectangle), and an interestingly cartoonish drawing style. Blurring the line between painting and relief sculpture, many of her paintings jut out from the wall, interacting with actual space. Her versatility in using literary and philosophical as well as daily visual experiences and pop-cultural references, and in asserting the importance of her art with bold use of color and paint texture was something that impressed everyone.
Imagine a woman, for whom it was not even “appropriate” to paint in the 80s, bringing about a shift in the style and tropes of the Neo-Expressionist movement of the then art world. That’s Elizabeth Murray for you.
Now here is a story you’d like to hear. Think of the Guerilla Girls as an unorganized organization. They are an anonymous group of female activist artists devoted to fighting sexism and racism in the art world. Formed in 1985, the group employs culture jamming through posters, books, billboards, and public appearances to expose discrimination and corruption. The members don gorilla masks and take on the names of deceased female artists, and here we see an astonishing instance of not desiring publicity for their own work or person but instead bringing larger issues to light. Their visuals and language are rude, outrageous, confrontational, and humorous- and that’s why they work. Step aside Robin Hood, your greater successors have taken over.
Do you know of more women from the 80s whose art is absolutely worth remembering? Tell us below!
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