The Goldie Paley Gallery is pleased to present "Guerrilla Girls Talk Back, A Retrospective: 1985-1991," an exhibition of posters, banners, audiotapes, videotapes, and films that document the activities of this anonymous group of gorilla-masked women. Functioning as the "conscience of the artworld," Guerrilla Girls covered the walls of lower Manhattan with broadsides calling attention to sexual and racial discrimination in museums and galleries. Although the Guerrilla Girls are no doubt known to Philadelphians, a comprehensive survey of their work has never been shown in this city.
Early in 1985, the Guerrilla Girls were galvanized into action by the under-representation of women artist in the Museum of Modern Art's "International Survey of Painting and Sculpture" exhibition. Of the 169 artists chosen, only nineteen were women. This gender percentage symbolized to some either how few inroads had been made by women into the mainstream, or the degree of backlash or slippage that had taken place since the mid-seventies. The Guerrilla Girls devised a hit-and-run poster campaign, and, as Roberta Smith said, "Took feminist theory, gave it a populist twist and some Madison Avenue pizzazz, and set it loose in the streets."
The Guerrilla Girls' posters level charges of sexism and racism at various artworld targets: galleries, museums, collectors, critics, and white male artists. Their work has helped to fuel a noisy debate about elitism in the artworld, "Part of a larger debate, spilling out from universities, about whether racial and sexual biases have narrowed the understanding of history and culture." Today, the Guerrilla Girls are active in many metropolitan areas-the San Francisco Bay Area, Houston, Los Angeles--even papering Moore College in 1990 regarding the hiring of a female president: "It's about time."