Exhibition

Women Take the Floor

September 13, 2019–May 3, 2021
John Axelrod Gallery (Gallery 326), Melvin Blake and Frank Purnell Gallery (Gallery 327), Saundra B. and William H. Lane Galleries (Gallery 328), Saundra B. and William H. Lane Galleries (Gallery 332), Saundra B. and William H. Lane Galleries (Gallery 334), Robert and Jane Burke Gallery (Gallery 335), and The 1940s and 1950s Gallery (Gallery 336)

Her vision, her voice across a century of art

“Women Take the Floor” challenges the dominant history of 20th-century American art by focusing on the overlooked and underrepresented work and stories of women artists. This reinstallation—or “takeover”—of Level 3 of the Art of the Americas Wing advocates for diversity, inclusion, and gender equity in museums, the art world, and beyond. With more than 200 works drawn primarily from the MFA’s collection, the exhibition is organized into seven thematic galleries. Interactive programming creates a dynamic space that welcomes visitor participation, and new rotations of artwork introduced over the run of the exhibition ensure that new voices and perspectives are available on each return visit.

Women on the Move: Art and Design in the 1920s and ’30s, Gallery 326

In the decades following the campaign for women’s suffrage, a greater number of women successfully pursued careers as professional artists and designers. Yet the road was not easy—nor was it open to all. This gallery features well-known artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Ruth Reeves, and Loïs Mailou Jones, as well as women artists whose importance is under-recognized.

No Man’s Land, Gallery 327

“No Man’s Land” is devoted to artists who have reimagined the metaphoric possibilities of landscapes, often through the use of symbols that allude to female experiences. Works in this gallery span the 20th century and include a recently acquired painting by Luchita Hurtado as well as paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe and Loren MacIver.

Beyond the Loom: Fiber as Sculpture / Subversive Threads, Gallery 328

The first rotation in this gallery features the work of early pioneers of fiber art—Lenore Tawney, Sheila Hicks, and Olga de Amaral—who radically redefined textiles in the 1960s and ’70s with monumental sculptures that engaged with contemporary art movements such as Minimalism. The second rotation, opening in spring 2020, focuses on contemporary artists using the medium of textiles (embroidery, weaving, printed fabric, and quilts) to challenge notions of identity, gender, and politics.

Women Depicting Women: Her Vision, Her Voice, Gallery 332

The central space features images of women, created by women. The objects range across time and place, as well as social, political, and cultural contexts, to represent the diversity of approaches women have taken in depicting one another. Highlights include such celebrated paintings as Frida Kahlo’s Dos Mujeres (Salvadora y Herminia) and Alice Neel’s Linda Nochlin and Daisy. Voices from the community play a pivotal role in this gallery, offering a range of perspectives through interpretative labels, performance, and other programming. In a video, Porsha Olayiwola, the current poet laureate of the city of Boston, performs what is the suffrage movement to a blk womyn?: an anthem, a poem specially commissioned as a response to the exhibition. Visitors are also invited to participate through an interactive comment wall.

Women of Action, Gallery 334

Building on recent scholarship, this gallery recognizes the contributions of Joan Mitchell, Grace Hartigan, Helen Frankenthaler, Elaine de Kooning, and others to the formation and expansion of action painting of the mid-20th century, a movement typically credited to their male counterparts.

Women Publish Women: The Print Boom, Gallery 335

Presented in two rotations, this gallery celebrates three entrepreneurs who founded printmaking workshops in the late 1950s and ’60s and played an underappreciated role in the revitalization of American printmaking: Tatyana Grosman of Universal Limited Art Editions (New York), June Wayne of Tamarind Lithography (Los Angeles), and Kathan Brown of Crown Point Press (San Francisco).

Women and Abstraction at Midcentury, Gallery 336

This gallery takes an expansive look at abstraction, exploring how women artists reshaped the natural world for expressive purposes in a wide range of media including paintings, prints, textiles, ceramics, furniture, and jewelry. Among the artists featured in this space are painters Carmen Herrera, Esphyr Slobodkina, and Maud Morgan and designers Greta Magnusson-Grossman and Olga Lee, as well as Claire Falkenstein, Laura Andreson, Margaret de Patta, and others who contributed to the development of the studio craft movement.

In the News

The Boston Globe (9/6/19): "New England’s 15 best museums and gallery shows for fall"
Boston magazine (8/19/19): "Get Ready to See More Work by Women Artists at the MFA"
ARTFIXdaily (9/3/19): "Seven-Gallery 'Takeover' of Art by Women at MFA Boston Marks 100th Anniversary of U.S. Women's Suffrage Amendment"
WBUR's "The ARTery" (9/13/19): "This MFA Exhibition Tells Art History Through The Female Gaze"

Sponsors

Bank of America logo

Lead Sponsor

Shapiro Family Foundation logo

Generously supported by the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation.

Additional support from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Exhibition Fund, and the Eugenie Prendergast Memorial Fund.