If Not Now, When? Generations of Women in Sculpture in Britain, 1960 – 2022
31 March – 24 September 2023
Exhibition entry is £12 / £10 / FREE for Members, Wakefield District residents and under 18s. Ticket includes entry to all our gallery spaces on the day of visit.Book Now
If Not Now, When? Generations of Women in Sculpture in Britain, 1960 – 2022 will open at The Hepworth Wakefield this March to explore the lives of women sculptors in Britain during a significant period of social and artistic change. The exhibition is the culmination of the feminist research project, Hepworth’s Progeny: Generation of Women in Sculpture in Britain, 1960 – 2022 and will show work by the women artists who responded to either the original 1988 or revised 2022 survey.
The 2022 research project was hosted by The Hepworth Wakefield in collaboration with art historian, Professor Griselda Pollock and sculptor Lorna Green, working with Yorkshire based curatorial researchers Dr Anna Frances Douglas and Dr Kerry Harker. The project revisited research into women artists working in the expanding field of sculpture undertaken in the late 1980s by Green as the basis for a present-day comparative study. Recruiting a new cohort of contemporary sculptors working in Britain today, the 2022 research project acknowledges the entanglements of age, class, gender, ethnicity and sexuality, neurosensory diversity and other factors. The research also touches on changes to funding accessibility, display and the critical reception of art by women. A small number of the original survey responses will be on display, narrating an intergenerational story of women artists.
The exhibition features around 30 works by sculptors such as Rose Garrard, Glenys Barton, Permindar Kaur, Katrina Cowling, Kim Lim, Lilian Lijn, Veronica Ryan, Shelagh Wakeley and more. Some of the first cohort of survey responses were submitted by then graduates – Phyllida Barlow, Helen Chadwick and Cornelia Parker – who are now recognisable names in the art world.
On display will be Barlow’s HOLD, 1986-9; Chadwick’s rarely seen early work, In the Kitchen, 1977 which she created as an MA student; and Parker’s Endless Coffee, 2022. It will also include work by artists who were frequently exhibiting in the 1980s but whose work is now less often seen, showing that many women artists’ careers do not follow an upwards trajectory.
While the first cohort of artists reported feeling restricted by perceived male materials such as bronze or stone, the second cohort of women were less affected by this. Many identifying with feminist activism in the 1970s and 80s challenged ideas of gendered materials and fought for the inclusion of other materials and processes – often associated with domesticity and women’s crafting skills – into the fine art domain. Their art activism changed the course of sculpture. To illustrate this, a wide range of materials will be on display including terracotta figures, knitting, embroidery, metalwork, hewn trees, casting, relief, clothing, felting, stitching and neon.
Although the second cohort of women felt less restricted by materials, they were still found to be hampered by cultural expectations of gender. Many of the works in the exhibition engage with ideas of gendered experience, highlighting social inequalities or critiquing cultural expectations of being a woman and femininity. The expectations of motherhood is found to be a barrier to sculptural practice and explored by several of the artists on show.
Phyllida Barlow / Glenys Barton / Keziah Burt / Shirley Cameron / Annie Cattrell / Helen Chadwick / Ann Christopher / Lorraine Clarke / Fran Cottell / Judith Cowan / Katrina Cowling / Nicola Dale / Deborah Duffin / Carol Farrow / Sheila Gaffney / Rose Garrard / Lorna Green / Mandy Havers / Bridget Heriz / Michele Howarth / Permindar Kaur / Rosie Leventon / Liliane Lijn / Kim Lim / Kara Lyons / Renate Meyer / Cornelia Parker / Christine Kowal Post / Victoria Rance / Freddie Robins / Veronica Ryan / Amy Stephens / Pamela Storey / Wendy Taylor / Shelagh Wakely / Lois Williams
‘This collaboration between the sculptor Lorna Green and The Hepworth Wakefield is made possible through funds from my Holberg Prize award, to continue my feminist and postcolonial research into the creativities and experiences of women. Given the richness of sculptural practices by women and changes in culture and society over the last 3 decades, I hope that revisiting Green’s findings and the sculptors who participated, alongside new research into the situations and perspectives of women sculptors now, will yield very important and fascinating understanding of continuities and differences, changes and insights into the field of practice, diversity, possibility and as ever persistent inequalities and difficulties created by issues of class, ethnicity and age as much as gender.’ Griselda Pollock
‘This exhibition opens at a pertinent moment when attempts to reconfigure, revise and re-balance aspects of recent art history are underway. We are delighted to bring together such a broad range of incredible women sculptors to conclude the intergenerational research project, Hepworth’s Progeny. The project is a natural continuation of The Hepworth Wakefield’s ambition to showcase underrepresented women in sculpture. The research project answers questions on the challenges of women artists and raises vital questions about how the art market can be more accessible to women. We are grateful to Griselda Pollock, Lorna Green and our curatorial researchers, Dr Anna Frances Douglas and Dr Kerry Harker, for their work on this project which we hope will be influential in supporting the forthcoming generation of artists.’ Eleanor Clayton, Senior Curator, The Hepworth Wakefield
Exhibition supported by:
The research was funded by a donation from the Holberg Prize awarded to Professor Griselda Pollock in 2020 for her work in feminist studies in the visual arts and art history, and to foster extended research in this field. The project was guided by an Advisory Board of Griselda Pollock, Lorna Green, The Hepworth Wakefield’s curator Eleanor Clayton, sculptors Sokari Douglas Camp and Jill McKnight, and independent art historian Dr. Alice Correia.
The exhibition is supported by:
Professor Griselda Pollock