Michela Griffo: The Price We Pay

A solo exhibition highlighting Griffo’s career as an artist who was intricately involved in social movements that radically changed society.

Pen + Brush is pleased to present Michela Griffo: The Price We Pay 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).

Michela Griffo: The Price We Pay

October 13 – January 21, 2023

Pen + Brush

29 East 22nd Street, New York , NY
Opening Reception Oct. 13th, 6-8pm. Gallery Hours: Tues. – Sat. 12-6pm