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Nancy Spero's War series on display at Galerie Lelong

The artistic equivalent of standing in front of a tank

Even hipper than the London scene of the late 1960s and early 70s was New York’s radical feminism of the same period, a golden era of protest we can only look back on with envious awe. Anyone who enjoyed the Yvonne Rainer film, “The man who envied women” will recall the vintage footage of a splendid Marxist-feminist debate held in the SoHo loft of Leon Golub and Nancy Spero. Yet as a perpetually politically-engaged and consistently caustic analyst of the power structure that surrounds us, Spero is not always given her due as a purely visual strategist. Along with the “Codex Artaud”, her “War series” is one of the clearest demonstrations of Spero’s compositional craft, deft decorative touch and literary wit, undermining the long history of man’s warring nature, and especially its ancient, classical expression, through Vietnam chopper and stenciled text. Spero’s material delicacy, her use of the lightest materials and subtlest marks, stands in deliberate resistance to the crude hugeness of the war-machine, the artistic equivalent of standing in front of a tank. It must be admitted that in the present political-military atmosphere it is heatbreakingly nostalgic to witness afresh Spero’s utopian energy (until 6 December).

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Nancy Spero, the War series 1966-70. Galerie Lelong'