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photography through the female gaze: women look at men

Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, and Diane Arbus consider the intersections of art, gender, and sexuality in the works of some of the world's most influential female artists.

by Emily Manning
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24 June 2016, 8:55am

Images courtesy Cheim & Read

One of anonymous artist advocacy collective The Guerilla Girls' most well known poster campaigns, from 1985, asked if women needed to be naked to get into the Met Museum, considering that less than 4% of artists in the institution's modern art section were women, while 76% of its nudes were female. A new exhibition opening today at New York's Cheim & Read Gallery creates a different gender dynamic, exploring how female-identifying artists see men as subjects.

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Diane Arbus, Jack Dracula, the Marked Man, 1961, The Estate of Diane Arbus

The Female Gaze — which features works in a variety of media, including painting, photography, and sculpture — is a two-part exhibition. Its first iteration, Women Look at Women, opened in 2009. Seven years later — as cultural dialogue broadens around the politics of gender and sexuality — Cheim & Read presents its follow up: The Female Gaze Part Two: Women Look at Men. Both exhibitions, the gallery says, propose a relatively simple question: would we react differently to these works if they were made by a man?

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Katy Grannan, Anonymous Modesto, 2014, courtesy Salon 94

Collecting work by 32 female artists — among them Louise Bourgeois, Tracey Emin, and Jenny Holzer, as well as photographers like Diane Arbus, Catherine Opie, and i-D contributor Collier SchorrThe Female Gaze seeks to subvert the stereotypical gender roles so entrenched in art's history and tradition. It asks us to consider the way subjects are posed and rendered, from the languid prostration Alice Neel paints, to the blockish proportions Cindy Sherman captures. "Instead of seeing the men as oppressors, men become the subject of their gaze," reads the gallery statement.

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Cindy Sherman, Untitled, 1999, Courtesy Metro Pictures

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Alice Neel, David Sokola, 1973, © The Estate of Alice Neel, courtesy David Zwirner

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Berenice Abbott, Cocteau in Bed with Mask, 1927

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Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, The Justifying Doctor's Note, 2010, Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery

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Diane Arbus, Young Couple on a Bench in Washington Square Park, N.Y.C., 1965, The Estate of Diane Arbus