Motivated by principle, not beckoned by market

News Section, Reviews

November 9th, 2012


(Review) Torture of Women by Nancy Spero

Modern Art Notes


Originally published April 10, 2010


Nancy Spero was an artist who made work because a principle motivated her and not because the market beckoned. Her work is physically substantial and full of detail. It’s the kind of art that lives extra-poorly in JPEG and that is often too delicate or too light-sensitive to be on regular view.

Fortunately Siglio Press has come out with a book that carefully ‘reproduces’ one of Spero’s major works, 1976’s Torture of Women. Spero described the work simply: “Torture of Women records case histories documenting the brutalizing and mistreatment of women.” It humanizes evil with urgency and confrontation. It is one of those artworks with which policymakers should spend time.

The book includes detail of every panel from Torture of Women, Spero’s “footnotes” of the work, 40 years of Spero’s thoughts and quotables on art and outrage (for this alone this book belongs in artists’ studios) and a panel-by-panel examination of Torture of Women by Diana Nemiroff, the curator who acquired the work for the National Gallery of Canada. The book is thorough and thoughtful. I wish there were more single-object books such as this, especially about works of art that engage with timely sociological and sociopolitical issues.



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