Martha Wilson

  • Martha Wilson, Martha Wilson as Barbara Bush, March 11, 1991. Courtesy of the artist.

  • Installation view of Martha Wilson at Pitzer Art Galleries, Claremont, California, 2013.

  • Martha Wilson, Posturing: Male Impersonator (Butch), 1973.

  • Martha Wilson, Breast Forms Permutated, 1972.

  • DISBAND, performance at MoMA PS1, 1979.

  • Martha Wilson, installation view, Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Montreal, 2011.

Initiated by Peter Dykhuis

Martha Wilson’s career, spanning 40 years, encapsulates the contestations inherent in feminist and socially engaged practices. In her work and throughout her life Wilson has explored how identity and positioning are not just self-defined or projected but also negotiated. The complex nature of her work encompasses her activities as an artist, creating conceptually based performances, videos and photo-text compositions since the early 1970s; her position as the founder and director of the non-profit space Franklin Furnace; and her collaboration with other women to form the group DISBAND, among many other activities. Wilson’s attitude to collaboration and openness to constantly redefining both personal and collective identities make her a central figure with which to collaborate on producing a series of exhibitions that selectively mine the various experimental practices, writings and shifting perspectives that allow an exploration of current attitudes toward feminism, activism and collaborative practice.

Written into and out of art history according to the theories and convictions of the time, Wilson first gained attention through Lucy Lippard, who contextualized her early work within the parameters of conceptual practice as well as among other women artists. A year later, in 1974, Wilson was denounced by Judy Chicago after a performance organized by Womanspace in Los Angeles for “irresponsible demagoguery.” She has also been regarded by many as prefiguring some of Judith Butler’s ideas on gender perfomativity through her practice, and more recently, in the words of the art critic Holland Cotter, she was described as one of “the half-dozen most important people for art in downtown Manhattan in the 1970s.”

This exhibition has been conceived to facilitate intensive collaborations between the curator(s) at each presenting institution and Martha Wilson. Working from the foundation of objects selected first by curator Peter Dykhuis in conversation with Wilson, each new curator is invited to select from this initial body of works, which provide an overview of the three overlapping stages of Wilson’s career, including a) explorations of her early solo photographic work; b) performance activities in New York, and c) 30 projects drawn from the Franklin Furnace archive, including a rich and compact body of documentation (videos, photographs, announcements, publications and flyers) of projects by Eric Bogosian, Willie Cole, Jenny Holzer, Tehching Hsieh, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Ana Mendieta, Shirin Neshat, Dan Perjovschi, William Pope.L, Martha Rosler and William Wegman, among many others.

Martha Wilson works with curators of the presenting institutions to further explore ways in which identity and contested histories can be presented in the context of their local constituencies and according to each venue’s programming priorities. Martha works on site at the participating institutions, collaborating with the curator(s) to select works from her own history and that of Franklin Furnace as well as selecting works from the museum’s collection or archive, or working with people in the community to develop an exhibition that explores the nature of visibility, or of what feminism means now, or the role of activist, socially engaged practice. The thematic focus will be determined by the local curator in discussion with Wilson.

Accompanying this exhibition is the Martha Wilson Sourcebook, published by ICI. Please visit our shop for more information.

Martha Wilson is a traveling exhibition organized by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York. Initiating curator for the exhibition is Peter Dykhuis. The exhibition, tour, and catalogue are made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Cowles Charitable Trust, the ICI Board of Trustees, and ICI Benefactors Barbara and John Robinson.


Martha Wilson’s Archives Featured on Hyperallergic

A recent Hyperallergic article discusses artist Martha Wilson’s particular modes of archiving her performance pieces in relation to the IC exhibition Martha Wilson: Downtown at the NYU Fales Library.

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Martha Wilson Profiled in Artforum and Interview Magazine

In a recent article in Artforum, Martha Wilson discusses her early artistic practice, the impetus behind the founding of Franklin Furnace, and the upcoming opening of the ICI exhibition Performing Franklin Furnace in New York.

Read more »

Martha Wilson featured in The New York Times

Martha Wilson and ICI’s upcoming multi-site exhibition in New York, Performing Franklin Furnace, were recently featured in The New York Times.

Read more »

Martha Wilson interviewed in The Brooklyn Rail

Artist Martha Wilson was recently interviewed in The Brooklyn Rail.

Read more »


Peter Dykhuis

Peter Dykhuis is director/ curator of the Dalhousie Art Gallery in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Prior to that he was director of the Anna Leonowens Gallery at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and a guest curator for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. His most recent exhibitions were Home / Land: Sylvia D. Hamilton and Wilma Needham, Place Markers: Mapping Locations and Probing Boundaries, Douglas Walker: Other Worlds and Giving Notice: Words on Walls.


touring schedule

Fales Library & Special Collections
New York University, New York, NY, United States
February 20, 2015 - April 30, 2015

Pratt Manhattan Gallery
New York, NY, United States
February 20, 2015 - April 30, 2015

Utah Museum of Fine Arts
Salt Lake City, UT, United States
August 30, 2013 - November 10, 2013

Institute of Visual Arts, University of Wisconsin
Milwaukee, WI, United States
June 7, 2013 - August 11, 2013

Pitzer Art Galleries
Claremont, CA, United States
January 24, 2013 - March 20, 2013

Arcadia University Art Gallery
Glenside, PA, United States
August 24, 2012 - November 4, 2012

Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery
Montreal, Canada
January 6, 2011 - February 19, 2011

Dalhousie Art Gallery
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
March 20, 2009 - May 10, 2009

Booking Info

Number of works: to be determined. Selections to be made from the original 58 works, which form the basis from which each local curator selects objects relevant to their own presentation, planned in collaboration with Martha Wilson.
Space required: flexible
Tour dates: January 2011 through 2015
For additional information, as well as to check specific dates of availability, contact Alaina Claire Feldman at 212.254.8200 x 127, or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Accompanying this exhibition is the Martha Wilson Sourcebook: 40 Years of Reconsidering Performance, Feminism, Alternative Spaces. Please visit our shop for more information.

NEW YORK, NY 10013
T: +1 212 254 8200 F: +1 212 477 4781
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