Andrea Bowers: Can the world mend in this body?
March 11-April 23, 2022
Jessica Silverman is pleased to present a solo show of new works by Andrea Bowers, on view from March 11 to April 23, 2022. Titled “Can the world mend in this body?,” the exhibition embraces a broad range of media: richly textured paintings on recycled cardboard, intricate colored pencil drawings, elaborate neon pieces, and a documentary video. All the works reflect the artist’s investigative and activist relationship to the environment and social justice. An ardent ecofeminist, Bowers explores loss and stalwart hope for a healthier planet that values the rights of women and nature.
Debuting the artist’s “Eco Grief Extinction” series, the show starts with three pictorial elegies on collaged cardboard bases. Each depicts a bird species that has vanished: the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Bachman Warbler, and Molokai Creeper. Among twenty-three species that the U.S. government declared extinct in 2021, the birds are depicted alongside women in states of suspension and remembrance. The bold juxtaposition appeals for the dignity, safety and rights of both. All the words in the cardboard paintings come from Deena Metzger. As the healer-poet writes, “How you treat us is how you treat the Earth.”
Celebrated for her neon signs, Bowers has created a 3D hanging sculpture-neon. The work takes the form of two entangled branches, made of hand-welded recycled steel, with leaves outlined in both steel and yellow and green neon. The words “Everything is Part of Everything Else” wind their way down one of the branches, suggesting the ecofeminist notion of interconnectedness wherein moral decisions are based on community, responsibility and care.
Another neon, a wall-work announces “RIGHTS OF NATURE” next to a speech bubble that adds “to exist, flourish and naturally evolve.” A quote from the Lake Erie bill of rights, which was passed by the City of Toledo but then overturned by a federal judge, the phrase emerged from activists that aim to give natural resources, like corporations, the power of personhood. No wonder it appears that NATURE herself is speaking. By these means, Bowers personifies nature and pays homage to the grassroots activists affiliated with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF).
Around the world, a Rights of Nature movement is gaining traction locally and sometimes even nationally. Bolivia has awarded legal prerogatives to the environment with its “Law of the Rights of Mother Earth,” which Bowers commemorates in the first three panels of a four-part work of detailed two-tone colored pencil drawing. Filling the fourth panel is the manifesto of Warsaw’s Federation for Women and Family Planning, which asserts that the banning of abortion “means forced births, discrimination, state violence against us all.” By pairing these declarations of the rights of women and nature, Bowers conjoins feminist and environmentalist energies into a unified front of resistance to the global forces of their shared subordination.
Finally, the show features Landscapes We Call Home (2022), a video shot in Humboldt County, featuring Redwood Forest Defense activists, perched high in the canopy with the aim of stopping “clear cutting” by Green Diamond, an industrial logging firm, which uses “greenwashing” marketing tactics to make their business appear sustainable. Filmed in the summer of 2020, Bowers interviews the tree-sitters to reveal how political movements like Occupy and Black Lives Matter have shifted perspectives on social justice to the degree that these environmental activists are not only keen to save the forest and the planet’s oxygen supply, but reinstate the ancestral lands of the Tsurai people.
Andrea Bowers (b. 1965) is currently enjoying a retrospective show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago which travels to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. She has had solo shows at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati; Bronx Museum, New York; Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton, Paris; Pomona and Pitzer College Museum of Art, Claremont, CA; Vienna Secession, Austria, and the Power Plant, Toronto. Her work has recently been included in group exhibitions at the Berkeley Art Museum (2021); MCA Denver (2020); the Walker Art Center (2020); and Migros Museum, Zurich (2019). Bowers’ work is held in the collections of Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.; MOCA Los Angeles and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Bowers has an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. She lives and works in Los Angeles.