October 11, 2022

Mary Kelly: To Witness the Future

Maria & Alberto de la Cruz Art Gallery at Georgetown University

Photo: Helena Yang.

Photo: Gregory Staley.

Photo: Helena Yang.

Photo: Helena Yang.

Photo: Gregory Staley.

The Maria & Alberto de la Cruz Art Gallery at Georgetown University is pleased to present a special collaboration with one of the world’s most recognized artists, Mary Kelly (American b. 1941, lives Los Angeles, California). Kelly has influenced conceptual and feminist art practices and shaped the way art is taught for decades. Mary Kelly: To Witness the Future marks the beginning of an academic year devoted to exhibitions and programs featuring women-aligned artists. This exhibition is the first to specifically explore Kelly’s long engagement with political movements. The works exhibited were produced between 2005 and 2020, but they reference the responses of women and women-aligned activists to key issues of equal rights in the United States and Europe since the 1960s. On view will be works she made with a range of collaborators, methods, and materials including projected video, lightbox photographs, live happenings, and “paintings” made of household dryer lint. To create these works, Kelly mined her historical archives examining recurring themes of gender discrimination, racism, nuclear war, and the climate crisis, and the forms of resistance they have generated.

In one suite of works, Kelly appropriates cover images of activist publications from the early 1970’s, juxtaposing them with Life Magazine’s 1945 depiction of a detonated atomic bomb. She re-presents them in an unconventional medium: lint from her household dryer. By turning a chore traditionally considered “women’s work” into a creative act, Kelly evokes the passage of time, and reflects on feminism’s legacy. Three illuminated transparencies document Kelly’s 2019 action in California’s Coachella Valley. She clutches umbrellas emblazoned with the slogans of the Cold War collective Women Strike for Peace (WSP). Flashing Nipple Remix documents one of Kelly’s happenings, the restaging a press photo of protestors. She asked, “what is left after the specific demands of the moment have faded and what, if anything, is passed on from one generation to the next?” The large video projection WLM Demo Remix animates an iconic photograph of the 1970 Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM) demonstration in New York City. And in World on Fire Timeline, lint panels quoting Kelly’s previous works are arranged in the nonlinear time of personal memory alongside political history.

Kelly’s work revisits and conceptually frames protests that have effected change, opening a multi-generational dialogue about the evolution of these demands, and offering a poetic way to witness the future. “As both an art professor and art maker, Mary continually inspires critical conversations. Her artwork is more relevant today than ever before, as a new generation embraces activism and examines the role of identity in our lives and society. We are honored to bring such an influential artist and her ideas to the Hilltop,” says the Galleries’ Founding Director and curator of the exhibition, Al Miner.

Mary Kelly: To Witness the Future will be on view from September 22, 2022–December 11, 2022. This exhibition supported by Helaine Posner (C ’75). ​​The exhibition will travel to Canada after December 11, where it will be presented by the Art Gallery of Guelph with the generous assistance of the Office of the former University Librarian, Rebecca Graham, University of Guelph, as well as the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and Ontario Arts Council.

All exhibitions and programs at the Georgetown University Art Galleries are free and open to the public. View more information on the de la Cruz Gallery website.

Other events
Tania Bruguera & Fazal Sheikh in dialogue: "Picturing Displacement" October 27, 3:30pm. Join politically-motivated performance artist Tania Bruguera and photographer Fazal Sheikh for a virtual conversation. Presented in partnership with the Georgetown Humanities Initiative’s seminar: Humanities Responses to Forced Migration. Register here.

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