10 of 80 + 1 Exhibition challenges art censorship & celebrates women in the visual arts

"This new exhibition features pieces that have been censored for years, by an artist who was left out of the original group of eighty women." - Arts & Entertainment Editor / Al Harmon.

10 of 80 + 1 is an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of Philadelphia Focuses on Women in the Visual Arts and is a (re)FOCUS 2024 participant. There are a total of twelve pieces on display now in Westby Hall. Some notable pieces that are on display include Audrey Flack’s Demonstrators, which depicts a social protest, and Alice Neel’s Mother and Child, which shows a frightened new mother and brings up the complexities of motherhood.

The original FOCUS program from 1974 was put together by women in the Philadelphia area and lasted two months. Almost five decades later, 10 of 80 + 1 (re) FOCUS, features ten of the original artists from the program, plus one. The artists who are represented are Pat Adam, Judith Bernstein, Blythe Bohnen, Louise Bourgeois, Diane Burko, Audrey Flack, Nancy Grossman, Lila Katzen, Alice Neel, and Sylvia Sleigh.

However, not all of the original women were represented in the original 1974 work. This new exhibition features pieces that have been censored for years, by an artist who was left out of the original group of eighty women. New York activist and artist Judith Bernstein and her work were censored and left out of the original program. In 1969, Bernstein made a series of drawings depicting screws, which were meant to symbolize “phallic oppression.” 

Mary Salvante, the university’s Gallery and Exhibitions Program Director, said “We saw it as an opportunity to correct the omission of Bernstein from the original show and put her piece Horizontal back in. The version in our show is a smaller version of the one removed from the original show.”

 “ReFocus is a multi-venue project throughout the Philadelphia region with over 50 participating organizations. We are the only venue that includes an original Bernstein artwork” said Salvante.

Bernstein’s work was said to be “offensive,” and therefore not seen as having any legitimate value. Rowan University has made the informed choice to display “Horizontal.” In the essay by Kristen Qualls that compliments the exhibit, Qualls states “Although Rowan University Art Gallery & Museum could claim similar reasons, we choose to showcase this work.” 

This begs the question; should we base qualifications for art on our discomfort with difficult issues, or does all art have the right to be shown? Rowan’s Art department is letting you have a voice. There is a voting box to the right of the piece, which encourages visitors to voice their opinions on the legitimacy of Bernstien’s work, and the choice to censor artists. 

10 of 80 + 1 is attempting to rectify the previous censorship of Bernstein. Ten of the 80 women who were shown in 1974 are represented in this exhibition, plus one; Judith Bernstein. This is where the name 10 of 80 + 1 comes from. 

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