With gender identity and gender-based discrimination so much in our national conversation now, “Gendered” is a timely show.
It’s a collection of highly personal visions from artists both local and national, and its breadth is apparent as soon as you enter the space.
On either side of a vast concrete divider are installations that, although done in dramatic shades of red and slightly related in theme, diverge in execution and intent. In Stacy Bloom Rexrode’s “TAG! You’re It!,” gallery visitors can write comments about women’s reproductive health on tags and attach them to a massive wall hanging. Within days of the exhibition’s opening, it was filling up with observations ranging from hopeful to angry.
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On the other side is Indrani Nayar-Gall’s atmospheric “Beyond _Square.” Its connection to the show’s theme is not obvious, but the inspiration for this work’s elaborately cut and burned patterns is the devadasi system, in which poor girls in India are prostituted, on religious grounds, to men of high caste.
Several artists use familiar or comforting objects in subversive ways.
Jeremy Brooks alters Norman Rockwell figurines and collector plates to depict males in cliched, tender scenes.
Greg Climer’s mixed media quilts of gay porn scenes are best viewed on a smartphone screen. (The most explicit one is a total blur otherwise.)
The oppressiveness of beauty standards is the subject of Holly Wilson’s exuberantly messy assemblages of hairdryers, mirrors and shavers.
Justin Korver’s rebadged trophies seem funny at first glance, but together tell a poignant story about what we deem worthy of recognition; they begin with an award labeled “To Male Physique” and end with ones reading “to existing as a verb” and “devoid of a noun.”
Many works don’t address gender issues exclusively. Wendell George Brown’s strange, compelling quilts featuring black families, schoolchildren and churchgoers speak to the power of groups in the face of isolation, whether due to race, gender or poverty.
In “Art World Part 1: Man in a Movie,” Stacey Davidson’s stop-motion animation about artistic rejection, a puppet sheds his suit and tie, revealing his flabby, soft-sculpture body; but the new, more glamorous persona he assumes is devalued and ignored.
In Austin Power’s ethereal watercolors, facial features float on white paper; difficult to read, they are filled with pathos and yearning.
The pointlessness of categorizing is at the heart of work by Robyn Day and Betsy Odom.
Day’s photographs of self-identified women – variously in ties and suspenders, wigs, and pretty sweaters – reveal the futility of labels, even when self applied. Odom’s sculptures, which use materials and techniques at odds with her subject matter – a spacesuit made of Gatorade containers, a drooping softball bat, plywood shoulder pads and a leather bathing suit – humorously resist classification.
In her mesmerizing ceramic sculptures, Holly Fischer alludes to fears about women’s sexuality and power. Undulating forms, inspired by poisonous sea creatures and carnivorous plants, have teeth and red fissures.
Margaret Curtis takes on bland affluence and power imbalances in paintings that feature underdressed women in the presence of fully clothed people. The clothing would suggest that the women are powerless, but their detached, strong demeanors establish that they are in charge.
Several photographers use self-portraiture to explore the idea of being marginalized several times over – self-described gay or queer individuals dealing with additional layers of isolation or displacement.
Shterna Goldbloom’s photographs examine the gulf between the Chasidic Jewish community in which she grew up and the person she has become – the embodiment of values she was taught to fear and mistrust.
Santiago Sanchez explores being an immigrant in suburbia. D’Angelo Williams’ vulnerable images display his soft, unidealized black body. And Guanyu Xu’s elaborately staged photographs deal with being a Chinese man and competing with macho American stereotypes.
In Gordon C. James’s “Soon They Will Rest,” 10 white-robed women, presumably painting models, are at leisure in a pastoral setting, taking a break from the job of being objectified.
Mariah Karson’s “Modern David” is a photographic portrait series of people named David. Shot in the same setting, they show men relaxed and genuine, not prettified or hypermasculinized.
Participants in Studio 345, a free arts program that aims to help Charlotte-Mecklenburg students stay in school, responded to the exhibition’s call for entries with touching works combining self-portraiture and thoughtful text.
Despite its subject matter, “Gendered” is not confrontational. Instead, it is inviting – of curiosity, of questions and of responses.
Barbara Schreiber is a painter who periodically writes about visual art. Her art has been shown in PS1, the High Museum of Art and more; her writing has appeared in Art Papers, Sculpture magazine and others.
‘Gendered: An Inclusive Art Show’
Organized by the Young Affiliates of the Mint and juried by Kelli Connell, Ryan James Caruthers, John Edmonds and Carla Hanzal.
Through July 21 at the Mint Museum Uptown; mintmuseum.org; 704-337-2000.