Nov 8, 2011

REVIEW | Hystrionics and the Forgotten Arm, Women and Their Work, Austin, Tx

Margaret Meehan, Journeyman, Archival Print, 2011
Upon entering the Women and Their Work gallery, guests are presented with a table display of information about the Margaret Meehan’s show titled Hystrionics and the Forgotten Arm. There is a binder filled with information about the artist, Meehan, including other galleries displaying Meehan’s work, and essays about the artist.  One impactful piece of information included on the display table is a listing of the artwork titles and the order that the pieces should be viewed.  The list also includes the materials used and price for each photo or installation.  The back side of this handout includes a list of key boxing terms used in the titles of each work.

Margaret Meehan, Lacing, Archival inkjet print, 2011
The handout allows the artwork to be presented without titles giving the viewer a sense that the space is well organized.  Most of the walls in the gallery are white and the photographs are framed in white making the space feel very clean and minimalistic.  The layout of the artwork is staged in a space that is very small and could easily seem cluttered.  However, the layout of the artwork is counterclockwise with ample room between each piece making the gallery seem spacious.  The works in the gallery are both photographs and installations that seem to be telling a story of a woman during a boxing match.  The handout became very helpful when viewing the artwork because the titles used were terms that were unfamiliar.  The handout also helped to keep the narrative moving forward in the order it was intended to be viewed. 
Margaret Meehan, Rope a Dope, Velvet, aluminum, poly-fil and thread, 2011

The first photograph presented is Journeyman: A woman, covered in white wolf like hair on her face and chest, dressed in a white dress standing next to a white chair wearing boxing gloves.  This woman is the subject for the majority of the photos for the show but each photo thereafter shows the subject progressively battered presenting a contrast with the use of red blood and a purpled black eye against the stark white of her dress, hair and background.  Standing close and studying each photo it seems that the viewer becomes the subject’s opponent; it appears she is looking back at each viewer as though they are the one that just struck her.
Margaret Meehan, Jab, Archival inkjet print, 2011

There are also several installations in the show, the first of these installations is titled Rope a dope, where the ropes of a boxing ring were covered in velvet and tied on to the corner of the room with black velvet bows.  One other installation in the gallery is titled Glass Jaw.  Glass jaw displays a punching bag covered in black antique glitter and includes lights hanging around the bag.  This installation stood out because the background is a black corner in the gallery; the walls in this installation had black chair railing where all of the other walls in the room were a plain and white.  The final installation, The Circled Square, placed in the center of the room literally brings the show full circle.  The Circled Square installation is placed in the center of the gallery and is a white circle with a pair of silver boxing gloves set on top of a glittering square.  It is defined as the location that two boxers meet at the start of each round.  All of the installations seem to take something that is primarily male oriented and adds feminine details such as black velvet or glitter.
Margaret Meehan, The Circled Square, Aluminum, vintage glass glitter and oil stick, 2011

From the moment the guests enter the Women and Their Work gallery, there are several tools to help understand Meehan’s show.  The binder with the artist background and past gallery showings to the title handout allows guest to add context to each piece of artwork and the show as a whole.  The organization and layout of the gallery allowed the guests to view each work with ease and understand the artist’s narrative.
- Vanessa Stuart


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