Until 17 December, Upstream Gallery in Amsterdam is presenting a solo exhibition by Alicia Framis. The Spanish multidisciplinary artist works in combinations of architecture, design, activism, fashion and performance. Women's rights and the (unequal) social position of women are recurring subjects in her work, in many cases approached from the scope of current events. In doing so, Framis exposes certain structures in our society and emphasises the fact that for women, the public and private spheres often overlap.
In many cases, the works of the Spanish artist have an activist edge. She previously made her famous 'LifeDresses', a series of nine dresses made from high-tech airbag fabric from Japan. The material, which had not been used for a dress before, inflates as a physical buffer in case of sexual harassment. It immediately becomes clear to bystanders that the wearer is being touched against their will. The dresses were on display at Art Basel in 2019, where they were highlighted by ArtNews as one of the six best works on show. The year before, Framis showed her work (and the performance) 'Is My Body Public?' there, an installation in which women were wrapped in translucent cloth with the same embroidered text in fifteen languages: Is My Body Public?.
But the artist has always been far ahead of current events: well before MeToo and a public dialogue about transgressive behaviour. In 2003, Framis showed her ANTI_DOG collection when she represented the Netherlands at the Venice Biennale. These dresses and other garments are made of Twaron, a material that protects against fire, bullets and dog bites. Framis made the garments especially for women of colour, who were attacked by the dogs of white supremacists in Berlin at the time.
In the exhibition at Upstream Gallery, Framis shows, among other things, the work 'Once Upon a Time There Was a Woman (Paleolithic)' (2022). Here Framis introduces variations of classical symbols for women, such as the Venus of Willendorf, placed under a mirrored glass ceiling. She refers to relatively new scientific disciplines such as gender archaeology, that studies our material culture in order to be able to say something about gender relations — a social construct — in (pre)history. Women have always played a significant role in history, just think of all the scientific inventions that were made by women but were only recognised as such much later, for instance in the case of Rosalind Franklin, who discovered DNA.
In the video work 'The Walking Ceiling' (2018) we see another reference to the glass ceiling, this time even more literally: we see how a group of professional women carries a glass plate on their heads, right through the city of Madrid. In the research project 'Sistershoop', which gives the exhibition its name, Framis takes a closer look at the relative invisibility of women's sport and the inequality that underlies it. In the exhibition space you can see nine sports shirts, the individual letters of which form the words SAFE SPACE.
The exhibition also includes a series of fluorescent paintings Framis made using the tape that is commonly used to guide airline passengers in the dark in case of an emergency. She uses the material to say something about insomnia, in many cases a physical expression of fear and uncertainty. The artist invites you to leave your fears here. Because in addition to her work about women, Framis also made countless works of art in which universal human problems are central, such as loneliness, longing and mourning. She also made works about child trafficking and a complicated relationship with a national history, including works in which she refers to Guantanamo Bay or Mussolini.
The artist studied visual arts at the University of Barcelona and the Beaux-Arts de Paris, followed by a master's degree at the Institut des Hautes Etudes in Paris and a residency at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. Framis taught at TU Delft, the Sandberg Institute (where she is program director of a Master's program) and ArtEZ, among others. She lived in Barcelona, Paris, Shanghai and Amsterdam, among others.
Framis's work has been exhibited extensively, including in Centre Pompidou and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and during Performa 09 New York and Manifesta 2 Luxembourg. You can find Framis' work in the collections of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, the Stedelijk Museum, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, MUSAC de Castilla y Léon, El Museo del Barrio New York, The National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto, the Rabobank, Collection FRAC in France and the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Beijing. During her career, Framis received a Prix Lleida Contemporary Art and a Prix de Rome.
The exhibition ‘Sisterhoop’ by Alicia Framis will remain on show in Upstream Gallery in Amsterdam until 17 December 2022.