Nancy Spero

29 Oct - 03 Dec 2005

Cri du Coeur

In her third solo exhibition at Galerie Lelong, Nancy Spero will present a new work entitled Cri du Coeur [Cry of the Heart], a continuous band of handprinted ancient Egyptian female mourners from the tomb of Ramos of Thebes. With hands clasped and raised in imploring gestures, the women form an unbroken grounded frieze that will wrap around the gallery space. As symbols of grief, the striking images in Cri du Coeur are made more poignant by the recollection of contemporary news photos of women mourning the dead—from Iraq and Katrina, Vietnam and Kashmir—and also by the knowledge that the artist herself is mourning the recent loss of her husband, artist and activist Leon Golub.

Spero has employed a vast and consistent vocabulary of images collected from varied source materials, focusing on those that depict women as empowered beings. Often layering and weaving colors and textures, she uses formal elements to create vivid collages allusive to such contrasting themes as dissonance and unity, celebration and loss. In Cri du Coeur, Spero employs the repetition of figures, dark and highly saturated colors, and a rhythmic line connecting the panels, and leaves the arresting impression of an obscured, mysterious passage during a period of great uncertainty and ambiguity. In relation to Spero’s other epic linear works—such as Azur and Black and the Red—Cri du Coeur is the darkest both formally and psychologically.

Spero first gained recognition during the ‘70s for her landmark series “Codex Artaud,” based on the radical poems of Antonin Artaud. For the next four decades, language and text would remain integral elements of her work, and she would continue to defy political, as well as artistic, conventions through her persistent exploration of gender politics and its ramifications. In 2003, Galerie Lelong presented “The War Series,” a collection of paintings made from 1966 to 1970 in response to the Vietnam War. Potent, fierce, and urgent, the works carried a message as pertinent today as they were at the time of their conception, reinforcing Spero as a pioneer in the history of art and a true iconoclast of our time.

Since “The War Series” in 2003, Spero has been the subject of two solo museum exhibitions: Weighing the Heart Against a Feather of Truth at the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and OtherWorlds: The Art of Nancy Spero and Kiki Smith at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, England. Since 2003, she has also presented solo exhibitions in galleries in Los Angeles, Paris, and Vienna. Recent group exhibitions include 50 Jahre / Years documenta 1955 – 2005 at the Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, and Drawn to Cleveland at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, both currently on view. In November, the Drawing Center in New York will present a new wall installation and works from “The War Series” in Persistent Vestiges: Drawing from the American-Vietnam War.


Tags: Antonin Artaud, Leon Golub, Kiki Smith, Nancy Spero