‘Pleasure & Protest’ exhibition brings curatorial activism to the Ent Center

A collection of painting, ceramics, textures and oil pastels has opened this week in the Gallery of Contemporary Art that brings to light the injustices of women in society.

The “Pleasure & Protest in Contemporary Figure Painting” exhibit will be available from 1-6 p.m on Thursdays – Saturdays from Jan. 25 to March 16.

Located in the Marie Walsh Sharpe Gallery Ent Center for the Arts, the colorful feminist pieces are part of a collection of works by artists Jackie Gendel, Lovie Olivia, Yana Payusova, Alexis Pye and Keer Tanchak.

GOCA’s website describes the how the artists’ “concerns in paint reflect current feminist discourse about cultural identity, representation and making.” The artwork in the exhibition focuses on different aspects of womanhood, including societal expectations, life in the public eye and the individual experiences of women of color.

Fan favorites included Paysusova’s stoneware “Facets” sculpture, where each tile portrayed women in distressing situations caused by societal standards, the immersive wallpaper created by Gendel of monochromatic sketches of groups of women, and an oil painting of a purse dog called “Crouton” by Tanchak on the floor propped up against the wall.

“Facets”. Photo by Lillian Davis.

Tucked away behind the elaborate wallpaper is a reflection space with a velvety red couch. The comfortable area displays the selection of curatorial and activism books that inspired the exhibition.

During a lecture for part of the Visiting Artists and Critics Series, guest curator Sara-Jayne Parsons described the exhibit as “very dynamic and … very vibrant.”

Parsons revealed the care and role of the curator in contemporary art. She noted her own knowledge in the field was organic, and built on curiosity.

“I’m always asking questions,” Parsons said. “I refer to my process as a web of care. This is a weaving together of roles and responsibilities that I take on as a curator.”

Coming from the U.K., Parsons noticed the lack of walkable places in the United States. “I wanted to think about how women move through public spaces, and their safety doing that,” she said. “Think about their experience in a gendered environment.”

Parsons used this inspiration to bring together the 2018 exhibition “Flâneuse,” which challenged the concerns of women in urban street areas. She compared “Pleasure & Protest” to “Flâneuse” by the liberating effects the art brought to the artists and viewer.

“I hope this project and the ones I’ve discussed this evening will really reveal some threads of care that the curator holds and carries,” she said.

Yana Payusova, who has many pieces in the exhibition, will be visiting and lecturing at the Ent Center on March 14 at 6 p.m. in the Chapman Foundation Recital Hall.

“Pleasure & Protest” will be viewble until March 16. Photo by Lillian Davis.