- CUAG Downtown
The Baroness Elsa Project
September 15 - December 12, 2021
Wit López, "Tryna Keep A Straight Face," 2021, photographs and digital quilt
Reaching back in time to spark conversations with Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven and her work
The Baroness Elsa Project brings elemental traces of the radical art, poetry and personage of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (1874-1927) into conversation with the work of eight contemporary artists. Reaching back a century, this exhibition positions Freytag-Loringhoven as a conduit for exploring embodied ways of making art in the present.
“The Baroness,” as she was known in New York of the 1910s and 1920s, punctured gender and societal norms through her forthright sexual expression, self-fashioned—at times sculptural—dress incorporating domestic objects, performative perambulations, and revolutionary use of language in her poetry and found materials in her art.
She was described as “the only one living anywhere who dresses dada, loves dada, lives dada.” Living in poverty, she sustained herself as an artist model, considering her nude body as an artistic medium and posing as essential to her “sheer life power.” Glints of her energy endure in photographs taken by Man Ray and others, and in the vibrant accounts of other artists.
Marcel Duchamp, her friend and peer, declared, “[The Baroness] is not a futurist. She is the future.” Although she was enmeshed in avant garde social networks with Man Ray, Duchamp, Berenice Abbott, Djuna Barnes, William Carlos Williams and others, Freytag-Loringhoven was ever on the periphery. Scholarship of the past several decades has illuminated her contributions to New York Dada and art and literature during a fervent period of Modernism, yet she remains under known.
This exhibition, while named for the Baroness, positions her challenges to societal norms and experimentation with art’s materials and forms as core to and in a continuum with the work of many artists today.
The eight contemporary racialized, Queer, Trans, gender non-conforming and women artists featured in the exhibition work against histories and systems of exclusion, push social and disciplinary boundaries, and claim space. Their work in sculpture, beading, photography, portraiture, video, poetry, installation and performance speaks to their lived experience, intervenes in social and art historical narratives, claims agency and power and activates new futures.
The Baroness Elsa Project illuminates the past and the present. The timely, relevant ideas explored by all the artists in the exhibition catalyze conversations that will be expanded upon in the fifth annual Stonecroft Symposium through a series of virtual events, performances and workshops.
Heather Anderson and Irene Gammel
Artists in the exhibition
Lene Berg, Dana Claxton, ray ferreira, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Wit López, Taqralik Partridge, Sheilah ReStack, Carol Sawyer, Cindy Stelmackowich
This is a touring exhibition
Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University, Sackville, NB
31 January - 14 April 2022