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Pierre Huyghe: The Artist as Director Ocula Conversation Pierre Huyghe: The Artist as Director

Pierre Huyghe is a producer of spectacular and memorable enigmas, with works that function more like mirages than as objects. Abyssal Plain (2015–ongoing), his contribution to the 2015 Istanbul Biennial, curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, was installed on the seabed of the Marmara Sea, some 20 metres below the surface of the water and close to...

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MoMA Expansion: Once the Modern, Always the Modern Ocula Report MoMA Expansion: Once the Modern, Always the Modern 29 Nov 2019 : Mohammad Salemy for Ocula

In the early decades of its existence, New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), founded in 1929, transformed from a philanthropic project modestly housed in a few rooms of the Heckscher Building on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, to an alleged operating node in the United States' cultural struggle during the cold war, and one of the...

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Hans Hartung and Art Informel: Exhibition Walkthrough Ocula Insight | Video
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Hans Hartung and Art Informel: Exhibition Walkthrough 15 October 2019

Hans Hartung and Art Informel at Mazzoleni London (1 October 2019-18 January 2020) presents key works by the French-German painter while highlighting his connection with artists active in Paris during the 50s and 60s. In this video, writer and historian Alan Montgomery discusses Hartung's practice and its legacy.Born in Leipzig in 1904, Hans...

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Betty Tompkins

b. 1945, USA

In small- and large-scale paintings, known for their hyper-realistic rendering and explicit scenes, American artist Betty Tompkins presents unabashed portrayals of female sexuality. Text and language also feature largely in her oeuvre, seeking to confront the history of misogyny in the art world and the ongoing objectification of women.

Betty Tompkins first began to consider sex as the subject of her paintings in the late 1960s while going through her then-husband's collection of pornographic images at a time when it was illegal to own them in the United States. After cropping images that she found compelling, the artist started recreating them. Between 1969 and 1974, a series of eight 'Fuck Paintings' were created using an airbrush, building upon layers of black and white acrylic paint to depict close-up shots of penetration. Monochromatic and slightly out of focus, Tompkin's paintings are evocative of formal studies of abstraction.

Although Tompkins was able to exhibit her early paintings in the 1970s, she would remain in relative obscurity for decades. In the 1970s in New York, galleries refused to show Betty Tompkins' artworks, while many second-wave feminists denounced the works for what they perceived as being exploitative of women. The 'Fuck Paintings' also suffered from censorship; in 1973, two were seized by the French Customs Office on their way to France for a group exhibition. It took nearly a year before the work was returned to the artist.

Departing from her 'Fuck Paintings', Tompkins later began to work closely with text. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she drew phrases from legal United States documents and painted their enlarged reproductions in acrylic or pencil on a grid composed of the word 'LAW'. The Bill of Rights (as depicted in Bill of Rights, 1978) and the Constitution (as depicted in We the People..., 1983) are frequent sources. Tompkins was inspired to create these works by a research study that suggested that many American high school students were unfamiliar with such fundamental articles.

Tompkins garnered wider attention in 2002 when a solo exhibition at Mitchells Algus Gallery in New York brought her 'Fuck Paintings' together for the first time in public. Fuck Painting #1 (1969) was purchased by the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the series was later shown at the Lyon Contemporary Art Biennale in 2003. During this time Tompkin's oeuvre was reconsidered in the context of feminist art, which led to her inclusion in the group exhibition Black Sheep Feminism: The Art of Politics at Dallas Contemporary in 2016.

Since the early 2000s, Tompkins has revisited the subject matter of sex, highlighting it in terms of violence against women. In 2002, she initiated 'Women Words', which asked people to send in emails showcasing language they heard in relation to women. The artist then made 1,000 paintings using these transcriptions, ranging from loving to demeaning, and another 1,000 in 2013 with stories and anecdotes from women. A related series, 'Apologia' (2018), quoted parts of apologia or denials issued by media figures accused of sexual harassment in recent years, such as R Kelly or Chuck Close.

In the 'Women Words' and 'Apologia' paintings, the background images are reproductions of well-known artworks, often found in art history textbooks. 'Women Words' feature masterpieces by male artists such as Titian's Venus and Adonis (1554) (reproduced in Women Words [Titian #5], 2018) and Manet's The Luncheon on the Grass (1863) (reproduced in Women Words [Manet #2], 2018). In these works, female figures are covered in pink text, bringing attention to the way the female body has been objectified under the male gaze in Western art history. The reverse takes place in 'Apologia', which borrows mostly female artists' works, such as Gentileschi's Lot and His Daughters (1635–1638) (Apologia [Artemisia Gentileschi #2], 2018) and Suzanne Valadon's Adam and Eve (1901) (Apologia [Suzanne Valadon #1], 2018), and blocks out male figures.

'Women Words' and 'Apologia' were exhibited together at P.P.O.W, New York, in 2018, while the 'Women Words' appeared in Tompkins' solo presentation Women Words, Phrases, and Stories at The FLAG Art Foundation, New York, in 2016.

Tompkins lives and works in New York.

Biography by Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2019
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Featured Artworks

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Women Words (Cezanne #1) by Betty Tompkins contemporary artwork
Betty TompkinsWomen Words (Cezanne #1), 2018 Acrylic on book page
25.9 x 5.1 cm
rodolphe janssen
Censored Painting #2 (Paris 1973 - Instagram 2019) by Betty Tompkins contemporary artwork
Betty TompkinsCensored Painting #2 (Paris 1973 - Instagram 2019), 2019 Acrylic on canvas
213.4 x 152.4 cm
P·P·O·W Gallery
Men are... by Betty Tompkins contemporary artwork
Betty TompkinsMen are..., 2019 Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
P·P·O·W Gallery
Sex Painting #2 by Betty Tompkins contemporary artwork
Betty TompkinsSex Painting #2, 2010 Acrylic on canvas
36 x 36 inches
P·P·O·W Gallery
Cow Cunt #1 by Betty Tompkins contemporary artwork
Betty TompkinsCow Cunt #1, 1976 Acrylic on canvas
84 x 60 inches
P·P·O·W Gallery
The Only Way by Betty Tompkins contemporary artwork
Betty TompkinsThe Only Way, 2018 Acrylic on canvas
91.4 x 91.4 cm
P·P·O·W Gallery
In order to form...Welfare and secure...America by Betty Tompkins contemporary artwork
Betty TompkinsIn order to form...Welfare and secure...America, 1984 Acrylic on paper
40.6 x 50.8 cm
P·P·O·W Gallery
Union and Liberty in the Dark by Betty Tompkins contemporary artwork
Betty TompkinsUnion and Liberty in the Dark, 1983 Acrylic on paper
17.8 x 30.5 cm
P·P·O·W Gallery

Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Betty Tompkins, Will She Ever Shut Up? at P·P·O·W Gallery, New York
15 November–22 December 2018 Betty Tompkins Will She Ever Shut Up? P·P·O·W Gallery, New York
Contemporary art exhibition, Betty Tompkins, Betty Tompkins at rodolphe janssen, Brussels
18 January–17 March 2018 Betty Tompkins Betty Tompkins rodolphe janssen, Brussels
Contemporary art exhibition, Group exhibition, The Shell (Landscapes, Portraits & Shapes) a show by Eric Troncy at Almine Rech, Paris
10 January–14 February 2015 Group exhibition The Shell (Landscapes, Portraits & Shapes) a show by Eric Troncy Almine Rech, Paris

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

EXPO Chicago Sets the Scene for 2020 Ocula Report EXPO Chicago Sets the Scene for 2020 27 Sep 2019 : Stephanie Bailey for Ocula

'Where Will You Be in 1933?' was the official song of the 1933 Chicago World's Fair—a buoyant ditty written in 1932 to promote an exposition celebrating Chicago's centennial during the Great Depression. On 18 September 2019, it was performed at the Chicago Symphony Center as part of Samson Young: World Fair Music. The performance extended...

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In Related Press

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betty tompkins refuses to shut up or be censored Related Press betty tompkins refuses to shut up or be censored i-D : 12 April 2019

When 73 year old artist Betty Tompkins first joined Twitter several years ago, she made her avatar a picture of one of her paintings – a close up of genitalia, which she had created from old porn magazines. 'I hoped it was abstract enough, so that nobody would bother,' she explained during a visit at her sizable studio in Soho where she's lived and...

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Betty Tompkins at P.P.O.W. Related Press Betty Tompkins at P.P.O.W. Art in America : 1 March 2019

Pink text snaked in tight, meandering rows across human figures in the fifty-one recent paintings on paper in Betty Tompkins's second solo exhibition at P.P.O.W. One piece read, I WAS HUNTING FOR A JOB AND HE WAS HUNTING FOR ME. Another: SHUT UP SLUT! And another: I VEHEMENTLY DENY THESE ALLEGATIONS.

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Betty Tompkins is the feminist artist you need to know Related Press Betty Tompkins is the feminist artist you need to know Elle : 20 November 2017

Known for a series of giant genitalia 'fuck paintings' (inspired by her husband's porno mags), the 72-year-old painter was once blacklisted and disregarded by radical feminists for her frank depiction of sexuality. As her new women words project - people send in words they use to describe women - makes its way across Europe, ELLE chats to the...

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The Feminist Pioneers Making Provocative Art About Sex Related Press The Feminist Pioneers Making Provocative Art About Sex New York Times Style Magazine : 31 October 2017

This Summer in Los Angeles, a hairy, phallic-looking screw painted by Judith Bernstein extended across 180 feet of the exterior of Venus galleryin Boyle Heights. This month at MoMA PS1 in Queens, men and women stripped down to their underwear and rubbed each other with raw fish in a video by Carolee Schneemann. And in London, pink double-headed...

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