During the 1960s and 1970s, Romanian artist Geta Brătescu (1926–2018) integrated textile fabrics in her artistic practice. She expanded her collages of geometrical paper with collages of hand-sewn textile patches. I chose this Romanian case study of the 1970s in order to expand a post-war notion of abstraction with a female, tactile material, and peripheral perspective. This paper argues that Brătescu’s abstract textile collages convey her marginalized gender identity, which also transcended her geographical marginalized position in Eastern Europe. Since the 2017 Venice Biennale, Brătescu’s art has received international recognition, but as Adrienne Rich argued in her “Notes toward a Politics of Location” (1984), a woman’s peripheral situation does not begin in a country, but with the geography of her body. For the first time, this original research sheds light on Brătescu’s artworks with traditional female and tactile materials such as textiles, yarns and fibres. In 1978 Brătescu created the series Vestiges with textiles that carry Brătescu’s personal memories, as she used her mother’s old clothes. Her textile collages refer to Romanian traditional female craftsmanship, personal relations, women in mythology, and pictorial traditions of abstract painting. During the 1960s and 1970s, women painters in the art centre of New York tried to utilize abstraction’s emancipatory potential as a non-binary formal language. However, for women artists, abstraction has always also been an ideological rather than a neutral aesthetic category. I claim that abstraction’s aesthetic promise and ambivalence connect Brătescu’s textile collages to a transnational but peripheral location as a woman artist. Thus, this case study proposes a social art-historical and formalist approach to overcome oppositional juxtapositions between centre and periphery and pursue a nuanced transnational perspective on women’s art of Eastern Europe.
Stefanie Proksch-Weilguni is a PhD candidate in art history whose research focuses on feminist art of the 1970s. She has published peer-reviewed articles on contemporary Romanian performance art and written international exhibition reviews for Revista-ARTA. In 2016, her Master’s thesis on Alexandra Pirici’s and Manuel Pelmuş’ project for the Venice Biennial was awarded the Sir Ernst Gombrich prize from the University of Vienna. Her current project focuses on Maria Lassnig’s animation and experimental films of the 1970s and the group of Women/Artist/Filmmakers, Inc. in New York.
The dissertation considers how traditional art practices such as painting have shaped the artists’ approach towards film. Since 2017, her research has been conducted at the University of Vienna, University of Basel and on a research stay at the University of Chicago. She has curated film screenings at the Stadtkino Basel, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Austrian Film Museum in Vienna, and published her research in exhibition catalogues and scholarly journals.