MoMA Presents ‘Our Selves’ Photographs by Women Artists from Helen Kornblum

MoMA Announces Our Selves: Photographs By Women Artists From Helen Kornblum. The Exhibition Features 90 Photographic Works By Women Artists From The Last 100 Years Drawn Exclusively From The Museum’s Collection.

The Museum of Modern Art announces Our Selves: Photographs by Women Artists from Helen Kornblum, an exhibition that will present 90 photographic works by female artists from the last 100 years, on view from April 16 to October 2, 2022. Drawn exclusively from the Museum’s collection, thanks to a transformative gift of photographs from Helen Kornblum in 2021, the exhibition takes as a starting point the idea that the histories of feminism and photography have been intertwined. Our Selves explores the connections between Photography, Feminism, Civil Rights, Indigenous Sovereignty and Queer Liberation.

Rather than presenting a chronological history of women photographers or a linear account of feminist photography, the exhibition prompts new appraisals and compelling dialogues from a contemporary, intersectional feminist perspective. African-diasporic, queer, and postcolonial/Indigenous artists have brought new mindsets and questions to the canonical narratives of art history. Our Selves will reexamine a host of topics, countering racial and gender invisibility, systemic racial injustice, and colonialism, through a diversity of photographic practices, including portraiture, photojournalism, social documentary, advertising, avant-garde experimentation, and conceptual photography. Highlighting both iconic and rare or lesser-known images, the exhibition’s groupings and juxtapositions of modern and contemporary works will encourage unexpected connections in the Museum’s fifth-floor collection galleries, which are typically devoted to art from the 1880s through the 1940s.

Over the past 50 years, the art-historical canon has come under an intense and overdue critique. Thanks to a sustained engagement with the pioneering contributions of women artists, its ideological underpinnings—masculinist, male, European—have been highlighted and scrutinized, and a number of urgent questions have emerged: How do we go about unsettling established art-historical narratives? Unfixing the canon? Activating new readings? Researching counter histories? Expressing transnational synchronicities? Constructing resistance?

Roxana Marcoci

Our Selves will open with a wall of self-portraits and portraits of female artists by such modernist photographers as Lola Álvarez Bravo, Gertrud Arndt, Lotte Jacobi, and Lucia Moholy, alongside contemporary practitioners including Tatiana Parcero, Rosemarie Trockel, and Lorie Novak. Inviting viewers to consider the structural relationship between knowledge and power, Frances Benjamin Johnston’s Penmanship Class (1899)—a depiction of racially segregated education at the turn of the 20th century in the United States—will hang near Candida Höfer’s Deutsche Bucherei Leipzig IX (1997)—a part of Höfer’s series documenting library interiors weighted by forms of social inequality and colonial supremacy. Lorna Simpson’s Details (1996), a portfolio of 21 found photographs, signals how both the camera and language can culturally inscribe the body and reinforce racial and gender stereotypes.

Works by Native artists including Cara Romero and Hulleah J. Tsinhnahjinnie, and non-Native practitioners such as Sharon Lockhart and Graciela Iturbide, explore indigeneity and its relationship to colonial history. Photographs by Flor Garduño, Ana Mendieta, Marta María Pérez Bravo, and Mariana Yampolsky attest to the overlapping histories of colonialism, ethnographic practice, and patriarchy in Latin America.

Our Selves is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue that features more than 100 color and black-and-white photographs. A critical essay by curator Roxana Marcoci asks the question, “What is a Feminist Picture?” and a series of 12 focused essays by Dana Ostrander, Caitlin Ryan, and Phil Taylor address a range of themes, from dance to ecology to perception. The catalogue offers both historical context and critical interpretation, exploring the myriad ways in which different photographic practices can be viewed when looking through a feminist lens. Purchase a copy here.

Our Selves: Photographs by Women Artists from Helen Kornblum is organized by Roxana Marcoci, The David Dechman Senior Curator of Photography, with Dana Ostrander, Curatorial Assistant, and Caitlin Ryan, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Photography, MoMA.

Congratulations to the entire MoMA team!

The images in this post are copyright of the The Museum of Modern Art and respective artists, in conjunction with MoMA’s current exhibitions, programs, building, and news announcements, as well as highlights from MoMA’s collection and MoMA PS1 exhibitions.