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Review: Feminist achievements, ideals lost in translation at exhibit

Press photo for "Tracers Takes Over." Credit: Courtesy of Jennifer Reeder

Press photo for “Tracers Takes Over.”
Credit: Courtesy of Jennifer Reeder

When Columbus-based group Tracers Book Club opened its exhibition “Tracers Takes Over” at the Hopkins Hall Gallery, the group aimed to make feminism more inclusive and give it a broader scope.

It’s an ambitious goal, and one the exhibition unfortunately fails to live up to it with its lack of inspired content.

Most notably, the exhibition makes poor use of the space. Hopkins Hall Gallery isn’t gigantic, but the approximately 420 square-foot space is ample enough to do a lot more than Tracers offers. It used none of the floor space — only the walls are adorned.

The main draw is a timeline of major events in women’s rights. As art, it has little to offer. It has no significant aesthetic but does provide for some worthwhile reflection on the development of a historical movement.

For those of us young enough to think we are ever-evolving out of a primitive mentality, the timeline provides insight into the major steps toward equality that developed long before our lifetime.

The timeline marks the dates of 1848’s Seneca Falls Convention and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Developments marked in the last decade are more subdued. The timeline marks things as underwhelming as other feminist art exhibits and the release of a Janelle Monáe album.

Depending on your perspective, this could be an inspiring sign that we have become “enlightened,” or disappointing evidence that needed progress in recent years has been stagnant.

The timeline also has wooden dolls of famous feminist figures like Sojourner Truth and Gloria Steinem. They have the feel of a loving caricature, and the idolatry is a fun addition to an otherwise serious exhibit.

The biggest problem with the timeline is how poorly its history is curated. The events are sloppily sprawled on with pencil, complete with misspellings, contradictory information and duplicates.

It seems like this must be a community project, but if the timeline was indeed a product of visitor contributions, there was nothing to encourage or explain audience participation.

The other exhibits were less impressive. There were esoteric displays of blank black books on a shelf and a group of red squares leaned up against the wall — and, of course, no artist placards to help crack the enigma.

A collection of magazines with a feminist slant was also one display. But with headlines like “Be your own pin-up: Sexy photos starring you!” it’s arguable whether these are true relics of women’s liberation.

Perhaps it’s unfair to judge the exhibition on these displays alone. After all, “Tracers Takes Over” is more than this — more significant are its events, like the three panel discussions this space will hold during September.

For an exhibition, however, that is set to occupy the sole gallery in the home of Ohio State’s Department of Art for more than a month, this is a lackluster display that feels like little more than a promotion for the Tracers Book Club itself.

Tracers describes itself as a “radical” initiative, but this was radically bland.

The exhibit at Hopkins Hall Gallery runs Aug. 25 to Oct. 3 and will host three panel discussions on Sept. 11, 18 and 25 at 4:30 p.m.

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