Why is it that the opening chapter of life has never received as much attention in art as the concluding pages? Why are elegy and memorial such established art forms (not just in visual art but in music, poetry) yet no equivalent form addresses birth, much less the ongoing process of raising children?
These aren’t trick questions, nor even difficult ones to answer, given the female-centric nature of these underrecognized subjects. Sexism reigned just as oppressively in the realms of art (creation, distribution and scholarship) as it had in the culture at large until the feminist surge a scant half-century ago helped redefine legitimate aesthetic territory. Now, women artists enjoy at least nominal equality with their male counterparts, though issues of the maternal, if no longer taboo in art, remain largely on the periphery.
“Breaking in Two: Provocative Visions of Motherhood,” at Arena 1, puts those themes front and center. Organized by artist Bruria Finkel, and graced with the Pacific Standard Time imprimatur, the show features work from the 1960s to the present by some 40 Southern California artists (including a few collectives), among them Eleanor Antin, Kim Abeles, Alison, Lezley and Betye Saar, Jo Ann Callis, Channa Horwitz, Renee Petropoulos, Astrid Preston, Linda Vallejo, Ruth Weisberg, Lita Albuquerque and June Wayne.