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January 23: Jeanette Ingberman’s Exit Art

January 23, 2013

Jeanette Ingberman, who co-founded the avant-garde political art center, Exit Art, in Soho, New York, was born on this date in 1952. The daughter of Polish Holocaust survivors, and fluent in Yiddish, Ingberman worked as a curator at the International Center of Photography and the Bronx Museum of the Arts, where she met her life partner, Papo Colo, a Puerto Rico-born artist. They founded Exit Art in 1982, as a center where "the making of art is inextricably interwoven with political and social commentary," writes Margalit Fox in the New York Times. "Exit Art has focused on showing the work of historically marginalized artists, including women, minorities, foreigners, and gays and lesbians." The gallery’s 18-year retrospective, "The End," won the Association of International Art Critics Award for Best Show in an Alternative Space. Two years later, Exit Art moved to Hell's Kitchen. Jeanette Ingberman died of leukemia at 59 in 2011, and Exit Art closed the following year, having organized more than 200 exhibitions, events, festivals, and programs featuring more than 2,500 artists.

"[A] conical tower made of dirty, empty water bottles; a screen that displayed cryptic messages, such as 'sex is chauvinistic'. . . graffiti drawn with lipstick; 21 eggs in a pile, each painted to look like a skull; a woman tied to a column and inviting audience members to whisper secrets in her ear; and a man sweeping a sand-covered floor, daring viewers to kick at his neatly ordered dirt piles so that he may begin sweeping again. . ." Liel Lebovitz, Tablet