Alexis Hunter: Money Art Sex - Part 1: A Goddess confronting Patriarchy

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Alexis Hunter: Money Art Sex - Part 1: A Goddess confronting Patriarchy

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Alexis Hunter: Money Art Sex - Part 1: A Goddess confronting Patriarchy

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A goddess confronts patriarchy: she is naked and magnificent; he a great serpent, phallic, coiled, bejewelled. She looks apt to bite.

Curated by Hettie Judah, this online exhibition is the gallery’s first presentation of work by the provocative feminist artist Alexis HUNTER (1948–2014) since announcing representation of her estate. The two-part exhibition features never-before-seen paintings, prints and photography. It follows the 2018 presentation of Hunter’s work at Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art, her first solo show in London since 1981. ‘Part 2: Callisto,’ also curated by Hettie Judah, launches on 7 December.

With gallery doors closed due to the recent lockdown brought on by COVID-19, it is satisfying to picture Alexis Hunter’s rowdy, seductive output in such close proximity to London’s long-awaited Artemisia Gentileschi show. “If you bury yourself in Artemisia’s golden folds, you know she really loved painting, (1)” Hunter observed after her own return to painting in the 1980s. Artemisia was one of the influences she cited as a painter, together with Fragonard, Monet and Goya,(2) so she was shy, apparently, neither of pleasure, nor horror.

Alexis Hunter
A Goddess confronting Patriarchy, 1983
Etching
38 x 56 cm
Edition 4 of 24 © The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Alexis Hunter
The Object Series, 1974
Gelatin silver print, unique, lifetime print
50 x 60 cm
© The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Alexis Hunter
The Object Series, 1974, printed 2006
Gelatin silver print
50 x 60 cm
© The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Alexis Hunter
The Object Series (Tattoo Series V), 1974, printed 2006
Gelatin silver print
50 x 70 cm
© The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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After moving to London in 1972, Hunter worked with photography, often in series resembling animation cells or picture stories. She hoped to engage an audience beyond the artworld hardcore by co-opting the aesthetic devices of advertising and women’s magazine as a vehicle for feminist theory. Sex, violence, and the threat of sexually violence were themes she returned to: even before Hunter rediscovered the pleasure of painting, the fantasy of lavish bloodshed that Artemisia composed for her muscular heroines must have felt thrilling.

Alexis Hunter
Approach to Fear I: Violence - identify with aggressor, 1976
8 colour photographs in 2 framed panels
100 x 41.5 cm each panel
© The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Alexis Hunter
Approach to Fear III: Taboo - Demystify, 1976
30 colour photographs, mounted on board
57 x 43 cm sheet
© The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Alexis Hunter
Nina fixing her car, 1980
Gelatin silver prints with ink additions
Set of 18, 18.5 x 25.3 cm each
© The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Alexis Hunter
Nina fixing her car, 1980
Gelatin silver print
20.2 x 25.3 cm
Part of a set of 19 © The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Alexis Hunter
Goddess Harnessing Muse, 1983
Etching
39 x 28 cm
Edition 15 of 60 © The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Alexis Hunter
The Artist Forum. Illustrated Lectures on Money, Art, Sex' by Alexis Hunter, 1980s
Printed poster (WIP copy)
42 x 29.5 cm
© The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Hunter used the title ‘Money Art Sex’ for a lecture at the LSE in 1993: like so much of her work, it was punchy but far from simple. “One aspect of my populism was to make images that appealed to the part of the brain that snaps to attention on seeing the fetish – the mother’s shoes and the fur for instance – and danger – fire, sharp objects, cracks, blood [...] the important thing was to get people to look at the work in the first place,” she explained in 1997 (3).

Alexis Hunter
Lust in pursuit of Desire, 1989
Etching, hand coloured
76 x 59 cm
Artist proof 2/14 © The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Alexis Hunter
Gender Confusion: Succubus/Incubus, 1977
10 colour Xeroxes in 2 framed panels
Each: 114 x 40 cm
© The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Alexis Hunter
Approach to Fear I: Violence - identify with aggressor, 1976
8 colour photographs in 2 framed panels
100 x 41.5 cm each panel
© The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Alexis Hunter
Untitled (Woman and Beast series), I,
Gouache and ink on paper
9.6 x 10.4 cm
© The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Alexis Hunter
Untitled (Woman and Beast series),
Gouache and ink on paper
10.6 x 12 cm
© The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Alexis Hunter
Co-dependence, 1997
Acrylic and pen on card
30 x 42 cm
© The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Hunter really was interested in the relationship between money, art and sex – how art used sex to generate money, how money dictated how sex manifested in art, how this patriarchal power dynamic persisted in advertising, Hollywood cinema and glossy women’s magazines. After exploring it through photography and film in the 1970s, in her painting and printmaking Hunter followed the power dynamic further, back to European myths and the creation stories of New Zealand.

Alexis Hunter
Tits and Bums, 1986
Ink and photo-collage mounted on paper, vintage
29.8 x 20.9 cm
© The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Alexis Hunter
The Model’s Revenge, 1978
Crayon, watercolour and lithograph on paper
57 x 77.5 cm
© The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Alexis Hunter
The Model’s Revenge, 1978
Crayon, watercolour and lithograph on paper
57 x 77.5 cm
© The Estate of Alexis Hunter. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

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Hunter’s new mythology – her cosmopolitan pantheon of goddesses, muses, devils and beasts – evolved as an act of re-telling, or perhaps an exorcism. Her destabilised mythic power structures are expressed in chimerical creatures – their bodies composed of multiple species – that she described representing “inner human conflicts, just as artists fantasized about the unknown in medieval times (4).”

(1) Artist’s Statement, Camden Town (1982) cited in Elizabeth Eastmond. Alexis Hunter: Fears/ Dreams/ Desires (1989)
(2) Catalogue for the British Council exhibition ‘Fantasy’ (1994)
(3) Interview with John Roberts in The Impossible Document: Photography and Conceptual Art in Britain 1966-76 (Camerawords, 1997) cited in Alexis Hunter: Radical Feminism in the 1970s (Norwich Gallery, 2006)
(4) Catalogue for the British Council exhibition ‘Fantasy’ (1994)

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