Skip Navigation
Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Alexis Hunter

London,
England

Alexis Hunter is a key feminist artist who has lived in London since 1972. Her work of the 1970s is identified as central to the development of radical feminist art in England at the time.

Hunter’s work is characterized by its distinctly feminist involvement. A common approach of the movement was to challenge the use of women in advertising, and Hunter’s work is aesthetically informed by ideas of filmic chronology and photo sequences. The female hand and the male body are distinctive motifs. Hunter’s work is read by critics and public alike as a direct confrontation to the accepted norms of sexualization, objectification, and seduction within society. As Hunter says, ultimately, the work exists as a repost to the damning and apathetic response of critics to academic feminist art.

Hunter stakes her claim as a key feminist artist most explicitly through her activism. She was a member of numerous feminist groups including the Women’s Workshop of the Artist Union, curator of shows at the Women’s Free Arts Alliance, and also lectured on feminist art both in the UK and internationally. Informed by an investigation into female psychology and awareness of advertising methods, Hunter’s position within the movement is unique.

Recent exhibitions include “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution” (Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles and traveling, New York, USA and Canada, 2007) and a retrospective, “Alexis Hunter: Radical Feminism” (Norwich Gallery, England, 2006).

Feminist Artist Statement

Over 35 years ago, I was interested in exploring the fault lines between the feminist concept of Patriarchy and the ways in which the media world viewed men.

I wanted to authenticate a form of art that incorporated feminist theory - images and presentation - that insisted on the female identity of the artist. These photographs produced as narrative sequences were called Approach to Fear, and investigated the value of feminism in conquering conventional female fears, such as technophobia, rape, grief, and objectified male sexual power.

I used the still camera as a movie camera to capture the symbolic relationships between objects and the human psyche. These works were a visual antidote to the ideas of romance and sexuality in advertising. The viewer is invited, through the focus of the camera lens, to recognize the artist’s attention to theory. As the images sharpen the focus delineates the symbolic detachment and the realization of the goal of psychological liberation from pre-feminist socialization.

There is a genuine interest in radical politics after the materialism of the last two decades. The moral ethic of this artwork and the complex dialectic between painting, film and the still photograph that this work explores might now be seen for its complexity and experimental nature. Not only does the context remain politically radical but the imagery is contemporary; this work is performance art where the artist is the ‘exposed’ protagonist.

The privileges that women fought for in the 1960s and 1970s are now under threat. This work shows how art can be political and can be used to subvert and challenge the status quo without sacrificing aesthetic integrity and artistic experiment.

It was exciting to be involved in the second wave of feminism and the feminist movement, and I am hoping that the third wave will be just as vibrant.

—Alexis Hunter/Alex Brew

<p>Approach to Fear XIII: Pain - Destruction of Cause</p>

Approach to Fear XIII: Pain - Destruction of Cause

This sequence of photographs of a burning shoe was made in 1977 as a challenge to fashion and gender stereotypes. The sequence shows the shoe gradually being burnt down to the sole. In an earlier version, the shoe is taken off and the wearer massages the incisions the shoe has made in her flesh.

Approach to Fear XIII: Pain - Destruction of Cause

This sequence of photographs of a burning shoe was made in 1977 as a challenge to fashion and gender stereotypes. The sequence shows the shoe gradually being burnt down to the sole. In an earlier version, the shoe is taken off and the wearer massages the incisions the shoe has made in her flesh.

Self-portrait

One of the most prominent feminist artists operating in the 1970s, Alexis Hunter often employs herself within her works. Typically including a hand whose actions spell out a narrative, this self-portrait is a comparatively rare example of the artist using her body as the subject. The lines which split the figure and hide her modesty echo the divisive, chronological approach employed throughout Hunter’s oeuvre, heavily informed by the filmic development of narrative. Taken while she hitchhiked across the USA, this self-portrait captures Hunter during her time researching for a review of feminist art in America which she had been commissioned to write for feminist magazine Spare Rib.

The Model’s Revenge I-III

In this triptych, the artist plays the role of the passive nude who becomes an active threat as she points a handgun toward the voyeur from between her breasts, before covering her pudenda with the weapon and gaining further association with Freudian ‘Penis Envy’. She finally rests it on a bed, wherein connotations of lust and vengeance underscore the very sexual overtones the model tries to defy.

Approach to Fear XVII: Masculinisation of Society - exorcise

This piece consists of a sequence of photographs in which an image of a man with an erection is being inked over by a woman’s hand, with sensual pleasure still residing in the application of the ink. The sequence was banned in Belfast City Gallery, Northern Ireland, as the museum security guards refused to come to work until it was removed.

Dialogue with a Rapist

This work documents the artist’s exchange with a rapist in Bermondsey, London, 1978, and is based on an actual experience. The script is a hand-written account of the dialogue between the two, where the artist/victim reasons with the rapist and manages to escape. A series of 10 in total, the photographs were produced by superimposing images of a knife onto the scene of the crime.

Object Series

The Object Series, featuring the now iconographic Twin Towers image, was an experimental project on the female gaze. It began as a record of tattoos and became a study of masculine expressivity. The images articulate a sense of liberty that seems highly precious in the current climate of fear over civil and social freedoms. The men in the images state their masculinity in an era that was confident in its portrayal of male identity, as in the Marlborough Cigarette cowboy advert. Hunter’s images also predicted the individualization of the consumer in the present day and foresaw the type of assertive yet passive sexual visual language of masculinity in advertising through her painted version of the Object Series, 1974.

Domestic Warfare

Domestic Warfare is a 120 image sequence about consumerism destroying a marriage.

Websites

Contact

13 Hillier House, 46 Camden Square
London,
England

Email

CV

PDF Dowload

Text, images, audio, and/or video in the Feminist Art Base are copyrighted by the contributing artists unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.