Michela Griffo: The Price We Pay

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: New York, NY, (August 1, 2022)— Pen + Brush is pleased to present Michela Griffo: The Price We Pay (October 13th – December 17th, 2022), curated by Parker Daley Garcia with Birdie Piccininni, a solo exhibition that brings together both large-scale paintings and small-scale watercolor works by Michela Griffo for the first time. With this exhibition Pen + Brush highlights Griffo’s career as an artist who was intricately involved in social movements that radically changed society beginning with The Redstockings in 1969, The National Organization for Women (NOW, 1970); The Gay Liberation Front, 1969-; Radicalesbians 1970’s as well as her continuing work with The Generations Project. Its title, The Price We Pay, references the costly sacrifices we make to be active in today’s society. Griffo, like many gay and lesbian activists before her, deals with issues of class, sexism, racism, and divisive rhetorics that are often not rooted in the reality of our shared world experience in her work. Griffo’s paintings often use primary colors to depict familiar scenes but have also taken the form of expertly composed muted whites (the Convent School series) and soft shadows often mixed with pencil drawings. On view here are works that simultaneously critique, trying to break open what is culturally accepted, and permeate current thinking.

The artist’s most recent paintings take on a layered approach that mimic layers of society through vibrantly painted scenes of Disney characters paired with intimate yet articulated pencil drawings and the stark contrast of a black and white comic strip. It is in this combination that an oppositional, yet logical commentary is born; it is one where Griffo shows herself to be an artist who continues to make critical works that question and provoke. Griffo’s voice becomes the consciousness of each painting, representing a visual language that is conversational and often takes the tone of news headlines. Her paintings, with their split between drawing and painting, can therefore be seen as archetypes for truth and manipulation. These large-scale works, along with her smaller (most current) works on paper, feel immediately relevant and pack a punch while taking reflective, contemporaneous, and thoughtful stances on often controversial current events. In a way, our own histories, contrived as they may be, are reflected back to us in Griffo’s works.

Griffo creates works that expand culture, particularly with the experience of othered bodies, adding accuracy to memory and deserves to participate fully in an art world that, even today, is systematically not necessarily “for” her, even as she challenges its terms. Pen + Brush is committed to expanding this representation in the art world.

About the Artist:

Michela Griffo (b.1949) is an artist and activist who came of age in New York City in the 1950s and 60s. Griffo studied at the University of Michigan, but ultimately established herself as a New York based artist after graduating from Pratt Institute with a Master’s in photography and a Minor in Painting. Griffo was an early member of the Redstockings and a founding member of the Radicalesbians, Lavender Menace and the Gay Liberation Front. Michela risked her life with other queer and lesbian activists on the front lines of the Gay Rights Movement paving the way for younger generations to come out and live safe and productive lives. Griffo exhibited widely in the early 1970s and has been included in several queer art shows, such as the traveling group exhibition Art After Stonewall: 1969-1989 by Leslie-Lohman Museum (2019-2020) and QUEER FORMS, Katherine Nash Gallery, Minneapolis, MN, (September 2019).

The Addresses Project:

The Addresses Project is presented as a separate exhibition in Pen + Brush’s downstairs gallery, a space that is often reserved for partnership projects. The works and ephemera presented here highlights important figures that were working in advocacy, some with Michela Griffo, for the past half century in New York City. Pen + Brush, being a 128-year-old non-profit fighting with equity in the arts, feels particularly grateful and close to the subjects pictured here.

What did it feel like to be there?: 12 Portraits from The Addresses Project presents a selection of twelve portraits from a larger multi-disciplinary project by Gwen Shockey with Riya Lerner featuring lesbian and queer women who have dedicated their lives to creating and holding space for women in New York City from the 1950s to today. The individuals included in the series represent a diverse network of community builders engaged with social and political organizing, mental health advocacy, nightlife, music, journalism, visual art, literature, poetry, performance, research, safer sex and kink practices. Each portrait includes a photograph taken in a significant location for the sitter, along with segments from their oral history interview and selected ephemera from their life and work. To see the full project please visit addressesproject.com.

Pen + Brush:
Pen + Brush is a 128-year-old publicly supported not-for-profit organization fighting for gender equity in the arts. P+B provides a platform to showcase the work of female identifying and non-binary artists and writers to a broader audience with the ultimate goal of effecting real change in the marketplace. We encourage and mentor emerging professionals and aim to expose the stereotypes and misconceptions that perpetuate gender-based exclusion, lack of recognition and the devaluation of skill that is still experienced by women in the arts.

General Information:

Pen + Brush is open to the public, as well as private groups, Tuesday – Saturday from 12pm to 6pm. We are located on East 22nd Street, between Broadway and Park Avenue South, and our gallery is accessible.

Press Contact:

Please contact Dawn Delikat, Executive Director, at dawn@penandbrush.org or call (212)475-3669 ex.2791 for more information or interview requests.

For general requests contact Parker Daley Garcia, Art Director and Curator, at parker@penandbrush.org or by calling (212)475-3669 ex.2792.