Sunday, September 26

Ida Applebroog’s feminist art can be seen in Madrid

Some of the works that are part of the exhibition 'Marginalias' by the American artist Ida Applebroog at the Museo Reina Sofía

Some of the works that are part of the exhibition ‘Marginalias’ by the American artist Ida Applebroog at the Museo Reina Sofía

The Reina Sofía Museum offers the first retrospective in the world dedicated to Ida Applebroog, ‘Marginalias’. A panorama that shows the wide and multifaceted career of an artist little known to the general public, but a whole pioneer of feminism, that focuses on the dysfunctionality of contemporary society.

‘Marginalias’, which opens to the public Wednesday through September, is composed of more than 200 works -most paintings or drawings- and eight installations. The exhibition offers the possibility of meeting Applebroog (New York, 1929), an artist with a very personal work, for the first time in Spain. “He openly criticizes patriarchal society, however he poses it as one more symptom of a global dysfunction, in which we are all puppets,” summarizes Soledad Liaño, curator of the exhibition.

The life of Applebroog (New York, 1929) would do well for a movie. She was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in New York, and only had the opportunity to study after getting married and moving to different parts of the United States. The period that he remembers as the most enriching was in Chicago in the fifties, where start studying art and get in touch with other artists. Years later, after moving to California with her husband and four daughters, she suffers from depression and a nervous breakdown that forces her to enter a hospital. That convalescence would mark his first steps as an artist. Today at 93 years of age, he continues to work every day in his studio.

Part of the drawings he made at that time (1969) as occupational therapy can be seen in the first room of the exhibition. “Her work is very personal, but she is also an artist committed to her time”, Explains the director of the museum, Manolo Borja-Villel. The topics that he tackles in his work are those of his life: the heteropatriarchy, the lack of definition between the private and the public, the desensitization towards the pain of others or the excesses of medicine.

His feminist position is perhaps the best known and also the first message that reaches the viewer as soon as they step on the exhibition. Along with the drawings of her stay in a hospital, with rich organic forms, appears ‘Monalisa’, a wooden installation and dozens of drawings on her vulva.

Applebroog, who after her stay in the hospital conceives a new surname – away from her husband Horowitz and similar to that of her parents, Appelbaum-; try to find in your body an answer to problems that concern you.

The artist’s work, whose shyness has defined his career -he did not offer interviews until he was more than 80 years old-, it is also marked by an element of theatricality in which the Queen’s proposal affects. In the following rooms, the paintings are distributed on the floor: ‘Everything is fine’ (‘Everything is fine’) gives prominence to the monkeys, as a criticism of the abuses committed in research against HIV and Ebola; and in the following rooms, ‘Living’ and ‘Marginalias’, dozens of ground-level works present solitary characters, in a grotesque key, with the aim of criticize “contemporary sick and dysfunctional society”.

Completely different is his most recent work, ‘Angry Birds’, in which Applebroog draws colorful birds taking as a starting point one of the key works of American ornithology, ‘Birds of America’, from the 19th century. Far from the candor and beauty of the portraits, in which many of the birds appear dead, the message reveals the implicit violence of the legacy and hints at a criticism of the Trump administration.

Applebroog has been present at key international events in recent years, such as the Kassel Documenta (1987 and 2012), or the legendary 1993 Whitney Biennial. This is the first time it has been shown in full, allowing you to appreciate its versatility. “He has a great ability to transmit his ideas in a plastic way, he is very versatile”, Liaño emphasizes. There are many types of work in the exhibition: drawings, watercolors, paintings, sculptures, artist’s books or installations. A choral story that for the first time allows see and analyze its five decades of experience full.

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