Best known for her pioneering films that offer daring depictions of lesbian life and sexuality, Barbara Hammer (1939–2019) created a striking body of work—including photographs, collages, sculptures, and installations—in her more than 50-year career as an artist. Organized by the Wex, Barbara Hammer: In This Body captures the full scope of her rich, interdisciplinary practice with a specific focus on the artist’s works dealing with illness, aging, and mortality. The exhibition explores Hammer’s sustained interest in the female body (and her unflinchingly honest documentation of her own) while foregrounding the tactile nature of her art and her intrepid spirit of experimentation.
The centerpiece of the new exhibition is Evidentiary Bodies, an immersive, three-channel video installation that draws imagery from previous works to poignantly synthesize the artist’s life in film and her life with cancer. The project was supported by a multiyear Wexner Center Artist Residency Award. Cellist and architect N. Scott Johnson, who collaborated with Hammer on the work’s score, accompanies the piece live at the May 31 Summer Exhibitions Preview.
Filled with experiential and interactive media, including X-rays, clinical breast models, and large-scale photographic scrolls, the exhibition as a whole foregrounds the physical relationships inscribed in Hammer’s work—both her process of art-making and the participatory nature of viewing—and creates a space where the body can be considered both individually and collectively.
The culmination of a decades-long relationship between the artist and the Wex, which includes the completion of several films with the support of the center’s Film/Video Studio, Barbara Hammer: In This Body is presented alongside a series of complementary talks and screenings (see below). The programs will continue later in 2019 with the screening of collaborative projects featuring four noted filmmakers—Lynne Sachs, Deborah Stratman, Mark Street, and Dan Veltri—with a related symposium to follow in fall.
"It has been my life’s work to break taboos and make the invisible visible…I want to show illness in a new way that doesn’t hide it."