press release

Louisiana on Paper
Nancy Spero
23 January – 26 April 2020

In 2020, the exhibition series Louisiana on Paper presents the American artist Nancy Spero (1926-2009). Her many-faceted oeuvre challenges power of all kinds – political oppression, racism and male dominance. The human figure is the central motif and a unifying element.

The feminist pioneer Nancy Spero will be introduced for the first time in Denmark when her works can be experienced in the South Wing at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. Early in her artistic career Spero – as artist and activist – made the decision, in opposition to most of the American art world, to work figuratively. Later she chose to stop painting with oil on canvas to work exclusively with paper as her pictorial medium.

Nancy Spero was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and trained at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1949. Subsequently she spent several periods in Paris. In 1964, she settled in New York in a changed USA that had entered into the Vietnam War. Spero joined the anti-war movement, participated in various actions and became engaged in groups such as Artists and Writers Protest Against the War in Vietnam. In succeeding years, the war became the most important theme in Spero’s art, and in 1966-1970, the War Series arose, a succession of more than 100 works that unrelentingly condemned the Vietnam War.

Strong inspiration from the French actor, dramatist and theatre theorist Antonin Artaud (1869-1948) gave new sustenance to her visual world. Incorporated quotations and figurative representations are characteristic of the work groups Artaud Paintings and Codex Artaud, which were created in the years 1969-73.

Against injustice and inhumanity
In 1972, the first all-women and non-profit gallery opened in New York – the still-existing A.I.R. Gallery (Artists In Residence). Spero along with five other female founders wanted to give the members of the gallery the opportunity to be permanently present in the art world. This was also a decisive step for Spero, who had not yet experienced significant public visibility with her art. There she exhibited among other things her pictorial friezes on long paper strips. A few years previously Spero had decided exclusively to depict females in her art – present-day, historical or mythological figures – and her revolt against the oppression of women in particular was from then on the prominent feature of her art.

Up through the 1980s and until her death in 2009, Spero was one of America’s foremost artists, and she continued to confront injustice and inhumanity energetically. The realization of the installation Maypole: Take No Prisoners at the Biennale in Venice in 2007 was another high point. The original idea for the installation – a maypole from whose ribbons hang severed heads – had already been developed 40 years earlier in a drawing for War Series.

The exhibition is supported by The Terra Foundation for American Art.

An exhibition by Museum Folkwang in cooperation with Nordiska Akvarellmuseet, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and Lillehammer Kunstmuseum. At Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, the exhibition is organized by Museum Curator Mathias Ussing Seeberg.

Catalogue: A catalogue has been published in English. Film: At the exhibition the film Woman as Protagonist: The Art of Nancy Spero. (46 min., USA, 1993, Director Irene Sosa) is being shown.