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Good Girls - Bad Girls
Miwa Yanagi's Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection at the Chelsea Art Museum

Miwa Yanagi, Yuka, 2000, from the series Grandmothers,
Deutsche Bank Collection

© Miwa Yanagi

Currently, the mammoth show Global Feminisms at the Brooklyn Museum in New York is presenting a résumé of present-day international feminist art that includes the works of around 100 women artists from over 50 countries. The exhibition presents many newcomers that haven't yet shown in New York, along with established names such as Tracey Moffatt, Jenny Saville, and Catherine Opie. Or the Japanese artist Miwa Yanagi. Her photo work Yuka from the series My Grandmothers portrays an older woman sitting in the side wagon of a motorcycle, cruising along the American West Coast. Her flaming red hair whips in the wind, her hand with garishly polished fingernails grips a cigarette, and a broad grin spreads across her face; this grandmother seems to be enjoying life to the fullest. But there are more of Yanagi's grandmothers to be seen in New York: the Chelsea Art Museum has given the art photographer her first American solo show. Lender and sponsor of the show is Deutsche Bank, whose collection provides the new video and the more than 30 photographic works in the exhibition.

"Miwa Yanagi: Deutsche Bank Collection" at the Chelsea Art Museum, exhibition view

The Kyoto-based artist became known with her Elevator Girls - young uniformed women posing before surreal architectural backdrops. Yanagi's photographs, which she painstakingly manipulates on the computer, investigate stereotypical women's roles in Japanese society. In the series My Grandmothers, which she has been working on since 1999, her models have forfeited their youth. Aged with the help of make-up and digital retouching, they act out their fantasies of what they hope their life will be like in fifty years' time. Yanagi's latest series Fairy Tales leads us into disturbing enchanted worlds where episodes from Rapunzel and Snow White are subversively staged. The innocent young heroines of these tales mutate into threatening, often evil creatures.

Miwa Yanagi, Rapunzel, 2004, from the series Fairy Tales,
Deutsche Bank Collection
©Miwa Yanagi

On the occasion of the exhibition, a discussion among prestigious participants took place at the Chelsea Art Museum. One of the people on the podium was the author and New York Times essayist Peggy Orenstein, one of America's leading experts on equal rights and gender roles. In her bestseller SchoolGirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap , she writes about young women's identity problems, while her autobiographical book Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, An Oscar, An Atomic Bomb, A Romantic Night and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother is currently creating a sensation.

Miwa Yanagi and Liz Christensen, Deutsche Bank Art New York

Miwa Yanagi elucidated her work in a discussion with Peggy Orenstein, Anne Tucker, head curator for photography at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and Manon Slome, head curator of the Chelsea Art Museum. The discussion focused on investigations into the themes of sex, body images, and age; this discourse takes on heightened relevance in view of other current exhibitions such as Global Feminisms and Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, which calls attention to the beginnings of feminist art.

Miwa Yanagi: Deutsche Bank Collection
May 4 - August 25, 2007
The Chelsea Art Museum
New York