Nancy Spero RIP
Jess McCabe // 22 October 2009
There was a memorable series devoted to Antonin Artaud, which included the phrase: “Artaud I couldn’t have borne to know you alive your despair”. Her art could also be riotously funny and sexy as well as macabre, and she made many works which dealt with female jouissance and eroticism, pleasure and pain. Spero was a spearhead of feminist art in the 1960s, calling for greater recognition of women artists and women in the New York art world. A recent show, Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution, which I saw in New York a couple of years ago, revisited those turbulent times, and Spero’s place in them. It should have come to Europe.
Spero was a vital, energetic artist. She never lost her curiosity in the world, nor her sense of anger at its injustices, and she found a way of making work which combined the graphic with installation, relevance and timelessness. She and Golub were partners for over half a century. I knew them since my first visits to New York in the late 1970s, and they were a unique and unguardedly generous double act. I owe something of my formation to this couple, who I once described as the conscience of the art world. And so they were.
Here are two videos showing two of her pieces, from a retrospective of Spero’s work in Sevilla in 2007: