P·P·O·W is pleased to present a solo booth of rare, never before exhibited historical works, vintage photographs, ephemera and films by Martha Wilson (b.1939), which highlight the years she spent in Halifax, Nova Scotia (1971-74). For over forty years Wilson’s work has revealed contestations inherent in feminist and socially engaged practices, paralleling the ways that identity and posturing are not just projected, but negotiated. Her performance, video, photography and text work created between 1971 and 1974 investigated the self, as well as the notion of self-perception, through both physical and cultural lenses. All of the works from this period were created in Halifax, where Wilson first began to create art that responded to the marginalization of females by the male-dominated art school environment. Wilson was recently described by art critic Holland Cotter as one of “the half-dozen most important people for art in downtown Manhattan in the 1970’s.”
In the series Portfolio of Models (1974) Wilson focused on fictive appearances and double transformations to challenge how identity is formed and recognized - regarding gender and identity as fluid expression. Wilson was one of the first artists to explore the effects of “camera presence” in self representation, using masquerade as a form of resistance; manipulating both her internal sense of self and her outward appearance. In the performance Self Portrait (1973), Wilson posed as herself, inviting the audience to give their impressions of her, which then became part of the work. In the Posturing Series, Wilson posed as a man posing as a woman (Posturing: Drag 1972), and as a twenty-five year old posing as a fifty-year old woman trying to look like she is twenty-five (Posturing: Age Transformation 1973).
Trained in English Literature, Wilson was teaching at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design when she became fascinated by the intersection of text and image. She moved to New York in 1974, working at Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Artbook publishers, in an effort to combine her interests in art and literature. In 1976, Wilson established Franklin Furnace, a non-profit art space, and has ran the institution ever since, providing a platform for over-looked and underappreciated artists of the 1980s and 1990s through their “virtual institution” which supports artists’ ideas through publications, experimental performance art and online projects.
Since 2009, Independent Curators International has traveled the exhibition Martha Wilson: Staging the Self to six institutions throughout the United States and published a corresponding catalogue Martha Wilson Sourcebook: 40 Years of Reconsidering Performance, Feminism, Alternative Spaces which received The Specific Object 2011 Publication of the year award.