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September 3, 2018

arms ache avid aeon: Nancy Brooks Brody / Joy Episalla / Zoe Leonard / Carrie Yamaoka: fierce pussy amplified

Beeler Gallery at Columbus College of Art & Design

arms ache avid aeon: Nancy Brooks Brody / Joy Episalla / Zoe Leonard / Carrie Yamaoka: fierce pussy amplified. Courtesy of Beeler Gallery, at Columbus College of Art & Design.

Beeler Gallery at Columbus College of Art & Design dedicates our five-month-long Season One to the individual art practices of the four original core members of fierce pussy, the New York-based queer art collective — Nancy Brooks Brody, Joy Episalla, Zoe Leonard, and Carrie Yamaoka.

Formed in New York City in 1991 through their immersion in AIDS activism during a decade of increasing political mobilization around gay rights, fierce pussy brought lesbian identity and visibility directly into the streets. Low-tech and low-budget, the collective responded to the urgency of those years, using readily available resources: old typewriters, found photographs, their own baby pictures, and the printing supplies and equipment accessible in their day jobs.

arms ache avid aeon: Nancy Brooks Brody / Joy Episalla / Zoe Leonard / Carrie Yamaoka: fierce pussy amplified tracks each artist’s work from the 1990s to the present and draws upon the collective power, shared tactics, and diversity of their works. The works, some of which will be created specifically for the season, will be installed in four movements or “chapters.” Each chapter will include works from all four artists in different configurations to amplify the four art practices as living, breathing entities. It is the first time the works of the four artists are put into direct inquiry. A gallery containing artifacts and documentation of fierce pussy will be on view.

The season activates the perceptual and political agencies and art historical concerns in the works of the individual artists, in light of the political power of their collective. Among the convergences and resonances is the vital role of abstraction as manifestation of refuge, necessity, and resistance. The four words in the season’s title — arms ache avid aeon — come from Yamaoka’s 1991 piece A is for Angel, which features words gathered from typewriter correction ribbons she collected from friends. This early text-based work serves as a powerful metaphor for making visible what has been erased in our daily lives, culture, and society, as the season likewise provides a critical platform for the visibility of the artists’ individual art practices.

A sense of political consciousness inflects the four artists’ works, as does a deep investigation of time, space, perception, and materials. In many of their works, abstraction serves as a form of resistance by pointing toward the limits of perception and visual representation. Carrie Yamaoka’s early work Archipelagoes (1991–94), a set of 18 chemically altered gelatin silver prints, maps a landscape of detention by naming places of quarantine, incarceration, and internment. Joy Episalla’s untitled (curtain) (1993/2018), a large-scale photograph taken when visiting a friend in the hospital during the early years of the AIDS crisis, led to an ongoing photographic series of curtains that spans over two decades. Zoe Leonard’s series of Sun Photographs (beginning in 2010) resists the basic rule of photography by pointing the camera at the sun. In Nancy Brooks Brody’s Glory Holes painting series (2008–present), the artist mixes black, white, and gray paint with the colors of the rainbow, which are revealed only through sustained looking.

As part of arms ache avid aeon, Beeler Gallery works closely with the artists to conceive public events, to contextualize their practices and affinities. Trans-genre artist Justin Vivian Bond will perform a concert at the historic Southern Theatre on November 15, 2018. Commissioned writing by artist and art historian Jill H. Casid, art historian, writer, and former Libération journalist Elisabeth Lebovici. Lebovici is the author of the recent book What AIDS Has Done to Me: Art and Activism at the End of the 20th Century. A symposium will take place on March 2, 2019 with the artists, Casid, Lebovici, and Beeler Gallery Director of Exhibitions Jo-ey Tang.

arms ache avid aeon is conceived and curated by Director of Exhibitions Jo-ey Tang, and co-organized with Assistant Director of Exhibitions Ian Ruffino and Registrar Marla Roddy. Season One is co-sponsored by Stonewall Columbus and Denison University’s Studio Art Program, Queer Studies Program, and English Department. Early support of the project for Jo-ey Tang included Denniston Hill, Woodridge, NY, and Rupert, Vilnius.

For more information, visit our new website beelergallery.org.

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