08 March 2023

Sylvia Sleigh: The Group

"A.I.R. does not sell art; it changes attitudes about art by women. A.I.R. offers women a space to show art as innovative, transitory and free of market trends as the artists' conceptions demand."

The group that called itself A.I.R. first met on Match 17, 1972 in a SoHo storefront. The  women founded a cooperative gallery to show art by women at a time when commercial galleries showed mostly work by men. There had been a demonstration at the Whitney Museum in 1970 brought attention to its paltry representation of women artists (five per cent). It was the painter Howardena Pindall who suggested the name A.I.R.

Who were they?  Susan Williams and Barbara Zucker were joined by Dottie Attie, Rachel bas-Cohain, Judith Bernstein, Blythe Bohnen, Maude Boltz, Agnes Denes, Daria Dorosh, Loretta Dunkelman, Harmony Hammond,  Ann Healy, Laurace James, Nancy Kitchell, Louise Kramer, Pat Lasch,, Rosemary Mayer, Patsy Norvell, and Howardena Pindell.

A.I.R. Gallery went on to curate groundbreaking exhibitions of art by women from Japan, Israel, Sweden, and the Third World in its first decade. 

Sylvia Sleigh (1916-2010) was a Welsh painter who lived and worked in New York City.

For more about A.I.R. go here.: A.I.R. Gallery.

Image: Sylvia Sleigh - A.I. R. Group Portrait, 1977-1978, oil on canvas, Whitney Museum, NYC


hels said...

Did the women have other, paying jobs that supported them? Or did some of them manage to live off their art? It must have been the dream of many writers, musicians and other creative artists to withdraw from the harsh commercial world outside into their passion.

Jane A Librizzi said...

Hels, as you can see in the painting these were mostly very young women, not long out of art school and making do with whatever money they could scrape together. Also, SoHo (south of Houston Street) was not the hot spot it has become in recent years. There were many vacant or rundown buildings.

Tania said...

What a nice group portrait! He immediately reminded me of those years. Thanks, Jane. And women artists are more visible today !
I couldn’t find your post on Hilma af Klint, whose exhibition I saw last month. Could you remind me of the link, please ?

Jane A Librizzi said...

Tania, women artists from the past are being rediscovered, too, like Hilma af Klint.
I removed my post about her because I'm reading an intriguing biography of af Klint by Julia Voss, translated from German.
Klint's contemporary Carl Larsson published horrible insults about women artists.
In 1892, af Klint visited Bruges where she made sketches very similar to ones made by Fernand Khnoff.

Tania said...

Oh, I am already looking forward to reading a new post after this reading, Jane - thank you for your reply.