Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1926, Spero is a pioneer of feminist art and a key figure in the New York protest scene in the 1960s and 70s. She can be placed among other feminist artists such as Martha Rosler and Adrian Piper, to whom MACBA has already devoted retrospective exhibitions. With a career as an artist and activist that spans more than 50 years, Spero continues even today to be an example of engagement in our current political, social and cultural scene, which she always questions and defies. The violent events with which her country has become involved in recent years have had the effect of bringing her work to the fore once more, with important exhibitions in Europe and the United States, the latest at the Venice Biennial.
Nancy Spero began painting on canvas in the manner of a traditional male painter, but soon realised that this was an eminently masculine medium, and as such marginalised her as an artist. From then on, she devoted all her efforts to creating a specifically feminine pictorial language to provide women with their own space in which to explore their capacity to communicate. This space, in which canvas is eschewed in favour of fragile paper, is organised around a lexicon of transhistorical and transcultural figures, real and mythological, which, reworked time and again, unmask stereotypes and revolutionise categories and hierarchies. In Spero’s work, movement, rhythm and colour form a grammar that is applied directly onto the body of the woman who, strengthened and full of energy, “feminises” and conquers the masculine art space.
The retrospective exhibition focuses particularly on the artist’s search to create her own language, featuring a highly significant selection from Spero’s production. The intention is to range from Spero’s earliest works on paper, dating to when she was still a student at the Art Institute of Chicago and had as yet shown none, to Maypole 2007
, her latest presentation at the Venice Biennial. Moreover, a wall-mounted installation will be specifically adapted for MACBA in which Spero finally eliminates all obstacles between her work and the space in which it is shown.