31 Women

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31 Women
Eileen Agar, 'Fighter Pilot', 1940. Courtesy Austin Desmond, London.

This show is like a Surrealist’s dinner party; one where Tracey Emin bombards you at the door with a story about an ethyl alcohol comedown that ended with her inserting an Orangina bottle into her vagina. The confession is told through the graceful loops of her handwriting in a framed two-page letter, a kind of self-portrait that acts as a prologue for the show.

Down the hall, you find Eva Rothschild’s ominous cast arm bolt upright in the middle of the floor, while feminist photographer Jo Spence stares on from one of her black-and-white images, holding a sign that reads ‘I’ll take (almost) any work’ in front of a bridal store. The strangest thing about this gathering is that it began more than 74 years ago, when art obsessive Peggy Guggenheim held an all-female show called ‘Exhibition by 31 Women’. Breese Little’s version acts as a Guggenheim sequel, but one with abstracted British bones.

Under-appreciated London Surrealist Eileen Agar’s collage ‘Fighter Pilot’ from 1940 sits beside the work of contemporary big hitters such as Gillian Wearing, Rose Wylie, Phoebe Unwin and the psychogeography of Cornelia Parker, while emerging artist Aimee Parrott has created a latex painting mimicking her own body especially for the show. It’s all a bit of a historical muddle, but it comes together in the compact Breese Little box. The works stand alone, but at times wink across the room at each other, like the way the mathematical lines of Bridget Riley’s ‘Towards Little Diamond’ speak to the rigid geometric folds of Rana Begum’s wall sculpture ‘No 409 Fold’. It’s a dinner party gone right. But like most UK galleries, they need to gather more seats at this table for artists of colour, and book in ‘31 Women’ for a third round.

By: Katie McCabe

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