PUNCH! Works by Women Artists from the Permanent Collection

  • Jan 21, 2007 – Mar 25, 2007
Installation view: Weatherspoon Art Museum, 2007.

The popular Punch and Judy puppet show traditionally cast Punch as an outrageous character, struggling with his wife Judy, and then triumphing against the forces of law, order and, sometimes, the Devil himself—all as a means of provoking shocked laughter.

None of the two generations of women artists in this exhibition can be considered the butts of absurd comedic jokes, but their work has often shocked audiences.

The group of women borne in the first few decades of the twentieth century, such as Louise Bourgeois, Lee Lozano, Niki de Saint-Phalle, and Nancy Spero, struggled within the male-dominated art world of the 1940s and 1950s. Some endured second-class status behind their artist-husbands; some dropped away from the art scene after having their work go unrecognized; and others waited years until their work received its critical due and acceptance. Yet, these early feminists did not shy away from making strong and often provocative work.

The second generation of artists represented in PUNCH! emerged during the 1970s and 1980s. Sometimes referred to as “post-feminists,” they have had for the most part an easier time than the women artists who inspired them. Ann Hamilton, Adrian Piper, Jane Hammond, and Rona Pondick, for example, have enjoyed critical praise, the success of museum exhibitions, and gallery representation and sales of their work. Some of these artists have explored the value of so-called “woman’s work”; others have examined ways in which women are often culturally represented. At the same time, inequities still exist between male and female artists, a fact that the Guerilla Girls continue to make known.

PUNCH! has been organized by Weatherspoon director Nancy Doll from works in the museum's permanent collection, and is part of a year-long national roster of exhibitions exploring the topic of art and feminism.


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