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Icon. Image of a womanwith the head of theStatue of Liberty. Marilú Báez
A new voice for women of the 20th century

A new voice for women of the 20th century

La Malagueta exhibits more than 500 images and photo collages created by María María Acha-Kutscher to show women and tell their stories

Francisco Griñán

Friday, 26 April 2024, 11:41

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Halfway round this exhibition is an image of a woman with a mischievous look on her face having taken down a portrait in oil of a distinguished gentleman while her accomplice finishes putting the painting of a young woman in its place. We do not know who they are, nor does it matter, but this work clearly illustrates the spirit of Acha-Kutscher's Womankind exhibition. This is a collection of secret, hidden, unpublished and suppressed portraits of women from the 20th century that have been salvaged by this artist, María María Acha-Kutscher (born in Lima, 1968). It is a review of feminine thinking made from real photos published in magazines or encased in family albums retrieved by the artist and then transformed by her to give them a more contemporary look. The result is a subversive and stimulating exhibition that runs until 11 July at La Malagueta cultural centre in Malaga.

"There have always been female photographers who have reflected their world through their work, but this exhibition puts women at the centre of history with these fictitious, documentary-style images that re-imagine the world of women if truly free," stated the Madrid-based Peruvian artist at the launch of the show in Malaga. This is a project she has been working on for fourteen years. More than 500 photo collages make up the displays, exhibiting everything from postcards, such as that of a woman looking at the imposing skyscrapers towering overhead, to gigantic montages up to three metres high, like the one of a female farmworker carting the head of the Statue of Liberty in a wheelbarrow. Women: empowered, serene, readers, contemplative, hard-working, warrior-like, assertive, solitary, relaxed, fun-loving and modern - women who are captivating because of their unpredictability, but also because of their powerful aesthetic appeal.

Womankind

Artist:

María María Acha-Kutscher.

Where and when:

La Malagueta Cultural Centre (in Malaga bullring, Paseo de Reding, 8), until 11 July 2024.

By firstly taking images from old books, posters, magazines and even private portrait photos, the artist reinvents these originals by transforming them into digital photographic collages that make up "a fictitious but credible archive that tells stories about the silencing of women in history", explained exhibition curator Sema D'Acosta, describing Acha-Kutscher as a "pioneering artist for Spanish feminism". This iconographic review of the 20th century in terms of gender is bordered by two key dates in women's history, from the suffragette movement for voting rights for women to the introduction and wide availability of the contraceptive pill in the 1960s.

Black and white to colour

Three quarters of Womankind fall into this timeline, following the life and times of women depicted in black and white. The anthology is completed, however, with several series in colour that correspond to the most recent work by this Peruvian artist. The final pieces in this show are the most autobiographical of María María Acha-Kutscher's work, directly addressing ageism, growing old and the menopause, "also suppressed topics", said the curator while following the extensive exhibition through the galleries of the city's bullring, alongside the artist and the culture delegate at the provincial Diputación, Manuel López Mestanza.

"I wanted to show my own ageing process, which I consider to be more like my femininity growing," said María María - not a typo, her double name is a tribute to her parents' names, María and Mario. She uses images of women from different posters, torn from walls, leaving behind worn faces and bodies that for the artist are a metaphor for the passage of time. Amid her latest work, one photo collage stands out: I Remember the Nights When I Used to Sleep (2023). In this series the artist openly confronts our thinking about the menopause through some of its most characteristic symptoms: sleep disorder, insomnia and hot flushes. Also, with the polyptych It Took Years to Get a Head Full of Silver Strands (2024) - several panels joined together like an altarpiece showing a woman's greying hair as a vindication of what is just a natural process.

Silver hair was not only an artistic choice, but also a personal one as the digital creator herself gave up dyeing her hair when she was still young and began to whiten it. The message to accept oneself and view growing older as something positive, not a decline, is what closes this exhibition. She seeks not only an aesthetic, but also an emotional connection with the onlooker in the final series, fresh from her studio: Deep Within the Mirror Old Age Lies In Wait For Me (2024). A simple invitation to take a proper look at ourselves in the mirror and accept the image that looks back at us.

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