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Gender in Art

Twentieth Century

The appearance of new fashion designs for women in the beginning of the twentieth century with its acknowledged elements designating traditional masculine features signaled a change in gender identity and the emergence of a cross-gender figure. This pertains to both new presentations on gender roles in society and culture. In the work of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907–1954), her masculine appearance in Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair testifies to a growing effort to legitimatize broader gender boundaries while being a statement of an assertive femininity. The work of the German female artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945) explores the humanity of both male and female sexes and testifies to a growing social gender equality, combining both to create a powerful political statement.

Gender perceptions in the 1960s and 1970s were defined by the emergence of the feminist movement. Art of both genders became instruments of political and social change. In visual arts the pop art movement took issue with popular gender ideologies and icons such as beauty and eroticism by overamplifying them, as in multiple lithographed duplications of Marilyn Monroe's image by Andy Warhol. The American feminist artist Judy Chicago (b. 1939), in a 1979 installation titled The Dinner Party, questioned women's achievements and their social roles.

In visual art since the 1970s, physical appearance and gender distinctions blur. The photographers Cindy Sherman (b. 1954) and Nan Goldin (b. 1953) challenged and transformed stereotyped gender roles while exploring female identity, love, violence, and transgender identities. The feminist American artist Barbara Kruger (b. 1945) portrayed the female body as a battleground for gender dominance. The conceptual female artist Laurie Anderson (b. 1947) combined multimedia performance with music, poetry, and visual arts. Known for her unusual mix of music, art, and the spoken word, she ironically challenged gender stereotypes and male social dominance.

Another social development, the emergence of an open and confident gay and lesbian community, has redefined gender portrayals. Robert Mapplethorpe combined over-masculinized bodies and images of homosexuality with the stylized aestheticism of glamour photography. Lesbian visual art as it has emerged since the 1960s is multifaceted yet does not represent a cohesive stylistic movement. The artists reflect the experience of being a lesbian in patriarchal society. Lesbian artists such as Harmony Hammond (b. 1944) have been defining a homosexual iconography and terminology, individual and sometimes reflecting stereotypes. This "queer" art has explored and broken down the conventions of traditional gender and sexual roles, as in John Kirby's Self-Portrait (1987), in which the artist presents himself in feminine underwear without concealing his masculine body.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Gastrula to Glow dischargeGender in Art - From Antique Through Classical Art, Middle Ages, The Renaissance And The Baroque, Eighteenth And Nineteenth Centuries