Spotlight: A Show at Unit London Presents New Approaches to Ceramics and Textiles, Reassessing What Is Considered ‘Women’s Work’

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What You Need to Know: Next week, Unit London will present the group exhibition “Within + Without,” featuring the work of 12 contemporary artists who engage with mediums that have been historically gendered. “Within + Without,” which will run from March 7 through April 6, 2023, operates as an extension of artist and curator Ferren Gipson’s research for her book . Both this exhibition and Gipson’s book (that includes additional associated projects) examine and laud the long and storied history of women artists who have worked namely with textiles and ceramics—mediums that have long been considered feminine crafts. The selection of works in this exhibition navigates the dichotomies between the internal and external experienced in everyday life, such as societal structures versus personal relationships or public versus domestic spaces.

Why We Like It: The dozen artists included in “Within + Without” are unified by the exhibition’s theme of reevaluating mediums that have generally been categorized as “women’s” mediums—but their approach and inspirations are incredibly diverse. Further, intriguing juxtapositions between works offer the ability to consider the abstract relationship between within and without, internal and external. Where Vanessa Barragão’s (2022) elicits themes of nature and the outdoors, Janice Redman’s (2019) centers on what is found inside, specifically a domicile. Armina Howada Mussa‘s (2020) focuses on the psychological and internal worlds, while Sarah Zapata’s (2021) reflects on the influences of society and culture. Throughout the exhibition, these types of thought-provoking collocations lead viewers to not only consider the myriad ways these traditionally “women’s” mediums can be employed, but also the way in which conceptions of within and without permeate our lived reality.

According to the Gallery: “The history of ‘women’s work’ has meant that mediums like textiles and ceramics have served as particularly potent tools to engage with feminist issues in modern and contemporary art. These mediums are fortified with a special capacity to express women’s stories and diverse perspectives through their historical associations with the feminine. For that reason, they are the perfect means of dismantling stereotypes, tapping into different experiences of womanhood, and disrupting historically male spaces.

“The artworks in the book and this exhibition are ‘women’s work’ in the most literal sense of having been produced by women and in representing mediums that have historically fallen under the umbrella of that label, but one must place their tongue firmly in cheek with regard to the term’s antiquated use in defining socially ‘appropriate’ activities for ladies. Women can and should do whatever-the-hell kinds of work they want.”—Ferren Gipson, excerpted and adapted from the introduction to her book .

See featured works from the exhibition below.

Sarah Zapata, <i>In times of mourning or social protest 2</i> (2021). Courtesy of Unit London.

Sarah Zapata, In times of mourning or social protest 2 (2021). Courtesy of Unit London.

Armina Howada Mussa, The Mark of Psychic Wounds (2020). Courtesy of Unit London.

Armina Howada Mussa, (2020). Courtesy of Unit London.

Bisila Noha, <i>Reunion I</i> from the project "Searching for Kouame Kakaha" (2021). Courtesy of Unit London.

Bisila Noha, Reunion I from the project “Searching for Kouame Kakaha” (2021). Courtesy of Unit London.

Paloma Proudfoot, Systems Error (2019). Courtesy of Unit London.

Paloma Proudfoot, (2019). Courtesy of Unit London.

Janice Redman, Gorge (2019). Courtesy of Unit London.

Janice Redman, (2019). Courtesy of Unit London.

Vanessa Barragão, Primavera (2022). Courtesy of Unit London.

Vanessa Barragão, (2022). Courtesy of Unit London.

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