I don’t know very many people who were in Los Angeles in the 1970s. All I really know about it is that it was a really “arty” time, ruled by modernism, Ferus Gallery, and anything else in The Cool School. Women don’t seem to be in my image of Los Angeles in the seventies, not even in popular media and culture (those women are usually in NYC, namely Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver and Dianne Keaton as Annie Hall). What was the female experience and history in 1970s Los Angeles? Otis’ PST Doin It In Public answers that along with an exhibit coming up at LACE: Suzanne Lacy’s Lacy’s Los Angeles Rape Map and Three Weeks In May.
Suzanne Lacy and other female artists in the 1970s focused their art and performance art on rampant rape of women in the city, a lot of which happened by their husbands. The artists brought the issue to the attention of artists, residents, and government officials alike that rape is an issue in the city and must be fixed. From posting rape reports where rapes occurred to live performances in public spaces to private performances with rape advocates, these female artists “melded art and activism” that isn’t for fun or just to show something cool–it was to change the city into something better. It’s really remarkable how these artists expressed the issue through interactive exhibits, yielding jarring works like Lacy’s Los Angeles Rape Map, which juxtaposes a map of where rapes have occurred in the city with a map of where women can get help. The balance of the two is baffling.
LACE recently created a short, eight minute documentary on the subject in anticipation of the late January show which really captures this moment. We hear from the artists who were involved in the movement and, for those of you like me, learn something about Los Angeles history and art history that was previously unknown.