Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency

Tuesday, Jan 19 – May 23, 2021

Columbia College Chicago
600 S. Michigan
Chicago, IL 60605

The Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago (MoCP) presents Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency from January 19 - May 23, 2021. The exhibition explores the psychological, physical, and emotional realities women encounter in the years leading up to, during, and after fertility. The exhibition features eight artists who consider a range of topics including birth, miscarriage, pleasure, the lack of access to abortion, trauma, and the loss of fertility. The exhibition is organized by MoCP chief curator and deputy director Karen Irvine and curator of academic programs and collections Kristin Taylor.
With works ranging from photography to video installations, the exhibition includes work by artists Laia Abril, Candice Breitz, Elinor Carucci, Krista Franklin, Doreen Garner, Candy Guinea, Joanne Leonard, and Carmen Winant. This exhibition seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the precarious nature of reproductive rights in a time where the future of these rights is uncertain.
Works on view cover a range of issues all linking back to the theme of reproductive justice. Highlights include Candice Breitz’s installation Labour(2017-ongoing), which probes the many meanings of the word “labor” in terms of capitalism, from the act of giving birth to the labor that is inherent in mothering and nurturing a child, as well as the domestic labor that has historically been assigned to women.
Artists Carmen Winant and Elinor Carucci both explore female sexuality, implicitly and explicitly critiquing the patriarchal gaze at different stages of female life and fertility. Winant’s photographic assemblage of female sexuality in History of My Pleasure (2019-2020) highlights the agency of the libidinous female body, while Carucci explores sensuality and pleasure after menopause, emphasizing imagery that is seldom made visible within art history and popular culture.
Other works on view highlight the often-invisible struggles of the reproductive body, including Under the Knife (2018), a project created by Chicago-based artist Krista Franklin, which intimately details the artist’s long struggle with uterine fibroids, a condition that can cause infertility and disproportionately affects Black women. Joanne Leonard explores a different kind of trauma in her Journal of a Miscarriage series (1973), a series of collages that grapple with the loss of her first pregnancy to miscarriage.
Taking a historical approach to understanding the contemporary state of reproductive healthcare, Laia Abril investigates the history of birth control and the subsequent consequences of restricting women’s access to safe and legal abortion, while Doreen Garner hauntingly pays tribute to Black women who were subject to torture in the name of medical research. Looking closely at the contemporary moment from an LGBTQ+ perspective, Candy Guinea depicts the artist’s journey with her partner as they attempt to conceive their first child through insemination, revealing pervasive gender binaries surrounding maternal health care.
The exhibition’s title, Reproductive, refers to both the act of copying something, like a photograph, and the biological creation of offspring. Additionally, the active tense of the verb “to reproduce” points to the capacity that these artists are at once demonstrating and demanding agency.
“The artists featured in this exhibition create space for themselves—and for others—to claim their power,” said exhibition curators Karen Irvine and Kristin Taylor, “revolutionizing the prevailing sense of what it means for a woman to be (re)productive.”
Exhibition dates are subject to change due to Covid-19. Reservations are required. Visitors can make a reservation at