Maypole: Take No Prisoners
New York, 528 West 26th Street
Nancy Spero is one of the most influential American feminist artists from the 20th century; however, her large-scale 2007 installation Maypole: Take No Prisoners has so far never been exhibited at her home country. Galerie Lelong’s timely exhibition introduces this mixed-media piece Spero created for the 52nd Venice Biennale with a series of works on paper at the side gallery to reflect on the artist’s artistic and political trajectory leading to this installation.
Maypole features more than two-hundred decapitated heads printed on aluminum that are separately attached to ribbons and metal chains. The contrast between two mediums in terms distinctly perpetuating commemoration and suffering makes Spero’s commentary on loss, agony, and war even more relevant, particularly considering the present-day political upheaval around the globe. Spero, who was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War in her work and personal life, orchestrates an equally subtle and haunting depiction of destruction caused by war.
“Not quite a sculpture and not quite an installation, it's probably best described as a three-dimensional drawing. Spero labelled the heads "victims", but they are more likely to inspire revulsion rather than compassion. Again, there is no pity here. In these works, Spero seems to have arrived at a stark answer to her own question: it's an artist's task not to rationalize, soften or explain, but to expose and inflict,” wrote Rachel Withers in her 2011 The Guardian article about Spero’s Maypole piece during its Serpentine Gallery installment.
The exhibition is on view until June 17, 2017.