The small coastal Massachusetts town of Beverly is playing host to a very large artistic presence for the remainder of the year as the Guerrilla Girls bring their brand of activism and social commentary to the Montserrat College of Art. The exhibit Not Ready to Make Nice: Guerrilla Girls in the Artworld and Beyond utilizes a set of four different exhibition sites. The opening reception for work in the Montserrat Gallery and the Carol Schlosberg Alumni Gallery was on August 30th and will remain on view until December 15th. Two additional exhibits will also appear, beginning at the college’s Frame 301 space in early October and their 301 Gallery in mid-October, and the Guerrilla Girls themselves will deliver a keynote symposium presentation on October 26th at 8 pm.
The Guerrilla Girls formed in 1985, becoming noted for their artwork critiquing art institutions that discriminate against women and minorities, among other issues. The members remain anonymous by wearing gorilla masks when making public appearances and adopting the names of deceased female artists. While the size of the group is unknown, at least two founding members, using the pseudonyms Frida Kahlo and Kathe Kollwitz, will appear at the keynote presentation. Montserrat exhibitions manager Lucas Spivey said these events will create perhaps the largest exhibition in terms of size and impact the college has hosted to date. “The Guerrilla Girls are the artists, they’re coming to visit, their art is the visit, so for as long as I’ve been here this is probably the biggest deal for an exhibition,” he said.
Iconic pieces are included among the artworks currently on view, such as the Do Women Have to Be Naked to Get into the Met. Museum? banner, which is updated with new information regarding the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection, along with posters, signs, and projects from more recent years. Several pieces require audience participation, such as I’m Not a Feminist, But if I Was, This is What I Would Complain About…, in which viewers are invited to write their response to the prompt of the title on a chalkboard for all to see. In Love and Hate, open letters to the Guerrilla Girls are written on post-it notes and put on display. Throughout the rest of the exhibit, the viewer is confronted with startling facts intended to expose a pro-white male bias in the art world that may have gone unnoticed, one being that of all the artist names inscribed on the front of art museums, none are women.
Although they aren’t scheduled to appear until late October, it is possible that a member or two of the Guerrilla Girls has already been seen in the area, as they are known to make undercover visits in preparation for work that is site-specific and requires preliminary research, and have already visited Beverly and Boston in preparation for their projects this fall. “They’re out there,” Spivey said. “I’m not sure which one has been out here already, but they’re here.”