Helen Molesworth, the longtime art curator behind major shows such as “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933–1957” and “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry,” has leapt headfirst into audio as the host of “Radical Women,” the first season of the Getty Museum’s Recording Artists podcast. Here, we chat with her about the trailblazing female artists featured in the series.
You’ve organized countless museum exhibitions over the years, but this podcast is your first. How has it been to work in the audio space?
I’ve really enjoyed it. One of the things I really liked about museum work was trying to figure out how to tell these big, messy art historical stories in three dimensions, and the podcast space is another interesting place to tell a messy story. It’s kind of built for it, in a way, because you can have so many different voices that can get layered and complicate, contradict, cohere, and not cohere in different ways. If the museum space is public, the podcast space is really intimate: There’s something about someone telling you a story directly in your ear. It’s not something you do with other people, for the most part. There were inherent challenges in trying to figure out how to tell stories about the visual, without any visuals present—and I liked all of those challenges.
Each of the six episodes of “Radical Women” combines raw archival footage that the Getty had just digitized, layered with new takes from artists and experts today. Could you tell us more about this collection of tapes, and the process of putting it all together?
The Getty approached me because they had the archives of Cindy Nemser and Barbara Rose, who are two very different personalities and intellects, but both of them had reel-to-reel tape recorders in New York in the sixties and seventies. The Getty asked if I wanted to do a project about Nemser and Rose, and that wasn’t where the interest lay for me as much—I’m more oriented around artists than I am critics, and so we decided to do one artist per episode. I didn’t want it to be didactic, with me as the only interlocutor, so trying to make it conversation-based seemed like the way to really pull that off, and have it not just be interesting because it’s archival, but because it can do some work in the present.
To what degree do you feel these tapes are a window into creative life for American women in the sixties and seventies?
It’s complicated by the fact that each of the artists are all at very different stages of their own working lives. By the 1970s, Alice Neel is in her seventies, Lee Krasner is in her late fifties, early sixties, and Eva Hesse is still quite young. When feminism emerges, it doesn’t emerge the same for all women at the same time. And I should note that the Yoko Ono interview is an outlier—that one comes from 1990. I don’t think she could have been interviewed [in the same way and time] in this case, because she was too “hot,” so to speak, too connected to Lennon, and the art world could never have seen her as a full protagonist in the 1970s—it still had its blinkers on about who was considered an artist, and what constituted “real art.”
But I do think that all of the audio does lay bare, on some sliding scale from implicit to explicit, the extraordinary pressures that women who wanted to make art and be considered serious artists were under—and how little room there was, in fact, for them to move, how they were still laboring under very conventional ideals of the wife, of motherhood. No one wants to deal with this, but it was a kind of second-class citizenship, that their work didn’t count as much as the work of other people, who were men. I think all of the audio gets it out in some way or another.
Anything you were especially surprised to uncover, and that has stayed with you?
In terms of surprises, there were just so many. I realized I had done all this work over the years on Eva Hesse, and I’d never heard her voice. It’s something that never occurred to me. But then, hearing the timbre of her voice really shook me. There’s something about the sultriness of it. She spoke so low and had such a strong New York accent. It took me days to go back and listen again, just because I wasn’t expecting it. And she’s someone whose work I know very well, and I knew lots of quotes I’d read from that interview, as cleaned up by [Cindy] Nemser.
I’m still not even really sure what it was that shook me so much, because of course I could say all the same things about Krasner, who has a deeply affecting voice—I mean, it’s like Barbara Stanwyck, it’s just incredible—but it didn’t throw me for the psychological loop that Hesse threw me for. That made me realize that our version of history is always so tidied up and neat, and that we’ve all left out the voice—the timbre, the embodiment of what someone sounds like, the uniqueness of that charge, in someone as beloved as Hesse.
Few musical genres capture the dizzying creative potential and sobering commercial realities of today’s moment quite likthe ever-bloating corpse of lo-fi beats playlists, or the number of times the word hyperpop entered a conversation in 2020), and federal disinterest in funding young musicians in any category beyond classical, o
On any visit to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, a certain sense of abundance weighs. Works by Rothko, Calder, andRashid Johnson rest only a quick walk from rooms stuffed with the shadowy canvases of Caravaggio and Rembrandt, which spill into sun-sa lot to take in. And while trying to process this aesthetic overstimulation, one can be forgiven for looking past the many mImmaterial podcast. Hosted by writer and poet Camille T. Dungy, Immaterial takes up a different art material as the subject of itfirst episode alone, about paper, everything from comic books, to Gilded Age belly-dancing celebrities, to bespoke Valentine’s Day ca
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Museums have begun to reopen in New York City—with appropriate precaution—and after months of prolonged closures and dig“Rashid Johnson: Stage,” an installation opening next week at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, Queens, and offering a participatory platform for diEp. 25 of our Time Sensitive podcast. At once referencing hip-hop culture, public oratory, protest, and public intellectual and cultural life, “Stage” will
The summer of Covid may be coming to an end, but our hearts, ears, and minds are hardly retreating indoors. We’re listenFor the Wild, a weekly podcast and “anthology of the Anthropocene” that’s keeping us curious and engaged about our place in nature. Feasting Wild author Gina Rae La Cerva (who also joined us on Ep. 39 of At a Distance) on the “quiet and hidden” stories of foraged foods; The Nap Ministry founder Tricia Hersey on rest as an act of social resistance; and Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, an enrolled member of the CiCenter for Native Peoples and the Environment, on what we can learn about earth healing from indigenous cultures. Many episodes come with a call to action to up your
Working from home, at least for those who are fortunate enough to do so, isn’t all bad. Trading workwear for loungewear,The Kids, a creative agency based in Zurich, are not all right with this. The firm’s interactive online project I Miss the Office serves as a cheeky reminder of pre-Covid-19 life that simulates the mundane soundscape of an everyday workplace—the sma
At first listen, the Get Sleepy podcast’s format is surprisingly basic: Cue the lulling intonations of a British narrator, who slowly reads an intentioSlumber, launched in 2018). Get Sleepy’s ASMR-meets-bedtime stories appeal is apt for these high-anxiety existential times that
Zoom fatigue—which is to say, screen fatigue—is all too real in these extremely online and indoor times, making old-school telephone calls a welcome, intimate reprieve. While we eagerly await museum reopenings, we’re gettin
The Swiss Army knife of gadgets, smartphones make for very good alarm clocks. They’re comforting to sleep with, keeping harder to sleep, impairs vision, suppresses melatonin, and throws the body’s circadian rhythm completely out of whack. (The National Sleep Foundation recommends ending the use of electronic devices at least thirty minutes before bed.)
A love of theater and drama drives the work of architect and designer David Rockwell, who grew up in a theater-going famRockwell Group, has designed numerous hospitality, entertainment, and cultural spaces—from Nobu to NeueHouse to The Shed—plus dozens oKinky Boots and Hairspray. While theaters are officially closed for the rest of the year, here Rockwell brings the spirit of the stage home to us with a playlist of some of his favorite musical numbers. (For more from Rockwell, listen to Spencer interview him on Ep. 1 of The Workspace of Tomorrow podcast.)