I had no intention of reviewing The Guerrilla Girls’ new catalog Not Ready to Make Nice: In the Artworld and Beyond. I mean it’s such a slim volume and I figured I knew everything there was to know about The Guerrilla Girls. Besides, I had practically emptied the library of the art books from the “New” section. Still, when I got home, put those big hardcover art books on the coffee table, it was the little Guerrilla Girls book that I brought to bed with me that night.

Not Ready to Make Nice is a straightforward catalog from the Columbia College A+D Gallery where the Guerrilla Girls were artists in residence this spring. (Bad at Sports is currently in residence, so stop on by.) The body of this 36-page book is a retrospective of the Guerrilla Girls’ last ten years. What I found surprising, sadly surprising, is that it seems the inclusion of women and people of color in our major institutions hasn’t improved much since they started. One of the most illuminating pieces is Chicago Museums: Time for Gender Reassignment! The facts in this work state “even the solo shows at the MCA since 2010 have been 80 percent male.” When I read that, I thought, Wow, that’s way more than I expected. Then my heart sank a little. Really, twenty percent? Remember that line from Rocky Horror where Magenta says to Frank, “I ask for nothing, Master,” and he responds, “and you shall receive it, in abundance.” Yeah, just like that.

The catalog also contains three contextualizing essays and a forward by Jane M. Saks, the executive director of the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media at Columbia College. The first essay by Neysa Page-Lieberman gives a succinct overview of the history of the Guerrilla Girls. The second essay by Joanna Gardner-Huggett considers the Guerrilla Girls through the lens of the feminist movement. Lastly, the catalog closes with an essay by Kymberly N. Pinder that places the Guerrilla Girls within context of  ’80s-era culture jamming and street art. Taken together, Not Ready to Make nice is a tidy overview of the Guerrilla Girls’ career and their influence on contemporary arts culture.

This last paragraph is where I usually talk about how much the book costs and where you can buy it. I got mine at the library, which seems like a good place to get a book. But when I started looking for purchase information, I couldn’t find any. It seems the only reasonable way to come by this catalog is to check it out or read it for free online. I love this idea. Catalogs can be crazy expensive and hard to come by, so the idea of posting it for free seems both intellectually and financially respectful. Go ahead, read this book. It’s interesting and it won’t cost you a thing.

 

Terri Griffith

Terri Griffith has published fiction and criticism in Art21, Bloom, Suspect Thoughts, and BUST, as well as in the anthologies Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class (Seal Press, 2003), Are We Feeling Better Yet? (Penultimate Press, 2008), and Art from Art (Modernist Press, 2011). Since 2006, she has been a literary and culture blogger for Bad at Sports. Griffith is the author of the novel So Much Better (Green Lantern Press, 2009) and the co-editor of The Essential New Art Examiner (Northern Illinois University Press, 2012). She teaches writing and literature at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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