It’s hard to imagine a subject more pertinent to the world’s population than women’s reproductive health; hard, too, to think of one as misunderstood, politicized and maligned. This hard-hitting eight-artist show at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago includes perspectives on the situation ranging from the historical and racialized to the personal, legal, and aesthetic. In a series that includes a full-size brown silicone American flag looking as if it were stitched together from the skin of African Americans, Doreen Garner considers the sadistic history of J. Marion Sims, who developed methods of modern gynecology through experimental surgeries on non-anaesthetized, enslaved Black women. Original collages from Joanne Leonard’s 1973 “Journal of a Miscarriage” marshall all sorts of imagery—vegetal, prosthetic, witty, heartbreaking—in the service of dealing with that most common and unspoken of pregnancy events. Laia Abril’s expansive documentary on the lack of access to abortion in countries around the world incorporates images of historical medical devices and concoctions; portraits of women and practitioners who’ve faced jail time for terminating pregnancies; video clips of politicians railing against abortion rights; and more. The exhibition, on view in person and online, ought to be required viewing for all.
—Lori Waxman 2021-02-26 1:38 PM