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"Six (And a Few More) Russian Women of the Avant-Garde Together"
Amazons of the Avant-Garde
Published in 1999
19 pages, fully illustrated
Because of their shared gender, the women of the Russian avant-garde are often conceived of as a self-reflective group of women artists. Charlotte Douglas reevaluates this over-simplification and explores the Amazons' individual concepts of gender identity. The essay focuses on the differences, influences, and artistic careers of Alexandra Exter, Natalia Goncharova, Liubov Popova, Olga Rozanova, Varvara Stepanova, and Nadezhda Udaltsova. The text positions these members of the avant-garde not as great women artists but simply as great artists, and fully recognizes the diverse and revolutionary works that emerged from these six figures, and a few more of their female contemporaries, through the entire gamut of art and culture.
Perhaps the best reason for isolating these women from their male colleagues is to enable us to consider in detail their striking successes and the centrality of their work in their time, which seem so unusual in the experience of the rest of the Western art world. Why, we want to ask—for our own sake—these women at this time in this place? It is an interesting historical question. Even so, we should not lose sight of the fact that the artists themselves would have felt it artificial to single them out, and quite beside the point. They accepted and worked almost completely within the male exhibition-and-sales paradigm, and they considered themselves artists first, zealous participants in a great aesthetic revolution. In this, a gendered identity seems to have played hardly any role at all.