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Women’s Work

The most prominent female artists of the '80s are subverting the billboards and marquees of Los Angeles.

The video marquee of the Key Club, a rock venue on Los Angeles's Sunset Strip, is usually home to garish concert ads. But the words currently scrolling on the screen aren't selling anything. "Smaller noses," the marquee reads. "Bigger breasts, fuller lips, abs, houses, and art." The words are part of a public art piece by Barbara Kruger called Plenty, which plays on the negative advertising that usually bombards commuters. The Kruger piece is one of several works in Women in the City, a series of new and reimagined public art pieces on display throughout Los Angeles-all of it made by women.The Italian artist Emi Fontana, who is behind the project, saw the 1980s as a pivotal era in the development of feminism, and called upon four of that decade's prominent female artists to transform the city's billboards, marquees, loudspeakers, and video screens into aesthetic forms of social commentary. "Women in the City speaks a similar language as advertising," Fontana says, "but it creates a displacement in the viewers. It asks them to think, rather than to buy." The ongoing project began in February and will continue to add artists and installations throughout the year.

Louise Lawler's audio and performance work deals with gender bias in the art world. Her Birdcalls-literally the mating cries of birds-riffs on the moneyed language of the art market, its shrill argot of buying and selling.

Jenny Holzer's Survival Series and Truisms are essays and slogans disseminated through posters, stickers, and LED screens as mock propaganda for embracing the status quo-with phrases like "Men are not monogamous by nature" and "The future is stupid."

The billboard images of Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills see Sherman as both photographer and would-be starlet subject, thereby confusing roles of watching and being watched (while also toying with stereo-typical images of women in film).


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