Alexis Hunter in Cracow.
Alexis Hunter is an artist
brought up in the Waitakeres Ranges in Auckland, New Zealand, after
her parents emigrated from Australia. For her Fine Arts Degree in the
1960s she focused on painted portraits of passive men, by way of challenge
to the male viewer in Art History, critiquing as a woman artist the
veiwer's expectations that the subject matter would be female, by reversing
the convention of male artist/female model.
As an ongoing rationalisation of the artist as female she adopted the
role of critic on her own work for her academic thesis completed in
On arriving in London in 1972 Alexis Hunter joined the artists Union,
of which the Woman's Workshop was a subgroup. This was a hotbed for
the intellectual force of feminist debate and theory through the early
1970s in London. At that time, now over 35 years ago, Hunter was interested
in the fault lines between the feminist concept of Patriarchy and the
way in which the media world viewed men. She sought images of men in
the street which portrayed this dichotomy which became The Object Series,
a photorealist oil painting twenty - five feet long. This work is now
on show in the WACK! Art and Feminist Revolution in the Museum of Modern
Art in Los Angeles, USA, on loan from the Auckland City Gallery Collection.
Hunter then invented a form of art that incorporated feminist theory;
images and presentation that again insisted on the female identity of
the artist. These photographs produced as narrative sequences were called
Approach To Fear, and investigated the value of feminism in conquering
conventional female fears, such as technophobia, rape, grief, and objectified
male sexual power. She used the still camera as a movie camera to capture
the symbolic relationships between objects and human intelligence, the
hidden psyche and made a visual antidote to the ideas of romance and
sexuality in advertising. The viewer is invited, through the focus of
the camera lens to view the artist's attention to theory - as the images
sharpen the focus delineates the symbolic detachment and the realization
of the goal of psychological liberation from pre- feminist socialization.
Alexis Hunter and Lynda
Morris of the Norwich Gallery are presenting this work to a new generation
as they feel there is a genuine interest in radical politics after the
materialism of the last two decades. The ethic of this artwork and the
complex dialectic between painting, film and the still photograph that
this work explores can be seen now for its complexity and experimental
nature. Not only does the context remain politically radical but the
imagery is contemporary incorporating as it does Hunter's early photographic
experiments in film and as this work is performance art where the artist
is the 'exposed' protagonist.
Alexis Hunter's work is
a timely reminder of the privileges that women fought for in the 1960s
and 70s are now under threat. This radical work shows how art can be
political and can be used to subvert and challenge the status quo without
sacrificing aesthetic integrity and artistic experiment.
For the first time this
work has been published in colour, in the accompanying limited edition
Artist's Book Alexis Hunter/ Radical Feminist Art in the 1970s.