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Nancy Spero papers, 1940s-2009

Nancy Spero papers, 1940s-2009

Spero, Nancy, 1926-2009

Sculptor, Painter, Printmaker

Collection Information

Size: 27 linear feet

1 rolled doc.

Summary: The papers of painter, printmaker, and collage artist Nancy Spero measure 27 linear feet and are dated 1940s-2009. Biographical materials, correspondence, interviews, writings, subject files, personal business records, printed material, and photographic materials provide an overview of her exhibitions, major projects, and personal life. Also documented is her interest and participation in political and social movements including anti-war, women's rights, animal rights, and raising awareness about repressive regimes, and the treatment of political prisoners.

Biographical/Historical Note

Nancy Spero (1926-2009) was a painter and collage artist in New York, N.Y. Spero was a founding member of the first women's cooperative gallery, A.I.R. in SoHo.

Provenance

Gift of Nancy Spero in 1979. The majority of the collection was donated by her sons, Stephen Golub, Philip Golub, and Paul Golub in 2013.

Related Materials

A Finding Aid to the Nancy Spero Papers, 1940s-2009, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.spernanc
Author
Finding aid prepared by Catherine S. Gaines
Biographical/Historical note
Nancy Spero (1926-2009) was a figurative painter, printmaker, and collage artist in New York City whose multi-media work often incorporated text. She was an ardent feminist and activist whose political and social concerns were expressed in her art.
Born in Cleveland, Nancy Spero lived in Chicago from the time she was a very young child until completing her studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (BFA 1949) where she met her future husband, painter Leon Golub (1922-2004). She studied briefly in Paris and lived in New York City, returning to Chicago after her marriage in 1951. The couple and their two sons lived in Italy from 1956 to 1957. In 1959, after a few years in New York, the family moved to Paris where Spero developed an interest in existentialism and produced a series of black paintings. When Spero and Golub returned to New York in 1964, their family consisted of three sons.
Nancy Spero was strongly affected by the war in Vietnam and the many social changes of the period. She became a social activist and feminist, joined various organizations, and participated in a variety of demonstrations. Work such as the
War
series began to include political and sexual imagery. Spero was among the founding members of the women's cooperative A.I.R. Gallery established in 1972. In 1974 she decided to make women in mythology, history, art, and literature the exclusive subject of her work. Included in this vein are major series and installations, among them
Torture of Women
,
Notes in Time on Women
,
The First Language
, and her 66th Street/Lincoln Center subway station mosaic mural
Artemis, Acrobats, Divas and Dancers
.
Spero exhibited in the 1950 Salon des Independents and her first solo exhibition (in tandem with Leon Golub) was held at Indiana University in 1958. Thereafter, she showed sporadically until nearly 30 years later when her career flourished and she enjoyed international stature. Beginning in 1986, each year brought multiple solo exhibitions at galleries and museums in the United States and internationally. In addition, she continued to participate in group shows such as "Documenta" and the Venice Biennale. Her work is included in the permanent collections of museums throughout the world.
Awards and honors included the Skowhegan Medal for Works on Paper (1995), Hiroshima Art Prize shared with Leon Golub (1996), The Women's Caucus for Art award for Outstanding Achievement in Visual Arts (2003), and The Women's Caucus for Art Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement (2005). Spero was awarded honorary Doctorates of Fine Arts by The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1991) and Williams College (2001), and was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2006).
After several years of declining health, Nancy Spero died from heart failure in New York City, October 18, 2009.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged in 9 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1950-2009 (Boxes 1-2, FC 31; 1.5 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1946-2009 (Boxes 2-4; 2 linear feet)
Series 3: Interviews, 1973-2007 (Boxes 4-5; 0.8 linear foot)
Series 4: Writings, 1950-2003 (Box 5; 0.8 linear foot)
Series 5: Subject Files, circa 1950-2009 (Boxes 6-18, 29, RD 30; 12.6 linear feet)
Series 6: Personal Business Records, circa 1976-2008 (Boxes 18-19; 1 linear foot)
Series 7: Printed Material, 1949-2009 (Boxes 19-25; 6.1 linear feet)
Series 8: Photographic Material, 1940s-2009 (Boxes 25-26, 29; 1.2 linear feet)
Series 9: Video Recordings, 1970s-1990s (Boxes 26-28; 1 linear foot)
Scope and Contents note
The papers of painter, printmaker, and collage artist Nancy Spero measure 27 linear feet and are dated 1940s-2009. Biographical materials, correspondence, interviews,writings, subject files, personal business records, printed material, and photographic materials provide an overview of her exhibitions, major projects, and personal life. Also documented is her interest and participation in political and social movements including anti-war, women's rights, animal rights, and raising awareness about repressive regimes, and the treatment of political prisoners.
Biographical materials include 29 audiovisual recordings about Nancy Spero and her work. Also found are biographical notes, resumes, and her passport. Correspondence concerns exhibitions, projects, travel, general news of family and friends, social events, and fundraising for political and social causes that Spero supported.
Interviews with Spero, conducted for a variety of purposes, include 7 audiovisual recordings, many transcripts, and published versions. Also, there are several joint interviews with Nancy Spero and Leon Golub. Spero's writings consist of notes, artist's statements, and articles. Also included are 7 audiovisual recordings of talks by Spero and her participation in panel discussions.
Subject files document many of Spero's personal and professional projects, relationships, and interests. Especially well documented is A.I.R. Gallery which includes 42 sound cassettes of talks presented in its "Current Issues and Events" series (1982-1984), gallery correspondence, exhibition documentation, and records of the A.I.R. Partnership.
Personal business records include many inventories and lists. Also documented are gifts, loans, sales, prices, reproduction permissions and fees. Printed material consists of a variety of items such as books, clippings, exhibition catalogs and announcements, periodicals, press releases and reproductions. Many items mention Spero and/or include reproductions of her work. Also found with printed material are 22 commercially produced audiovisual recordings about various subjects.
Photographic materials include photographs, digital images, slides, negatives and color transparencies of artwork, exhibition installations, and people. Artwork is mainly by Spero and exhibition installations record some of her solo shows. Images of people include Nancy Spero, Leon Golub, unidentified friends and family members.
Provenance
Gift of Nancy Spero in 1979. The majority of the collection was donated by her sons, Stephen Golub, Philip Golub, and Paul Golub in 2013.
Related Archival Materials note
Also among the holdings of the Archives of American Art an interview of Nancy Spero conducted 2008 Februay 6-July 24, by Judith Olch Richards, and the papers of Spero's husband, Leon Golub.
Processing Information note
This collection was processed to a minimal level and a finding aid prepared in 2014 by Catherine S. Gaines. The Archives of American Art has implemented minimal processing tactics when possible in order to increase access to more of our collections.
Minimal processing included arrangement to the series and folder levels. Generally, items within folders were simply verified with folder titles, but not arranged further. The collection was rehoused in archival containers and folders, but not all staples and clips were removed.
Motion picture film reel was inspected and re-housed in 2016 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center.

How to Cite This Collection

Nancy Spero papers, 1940s-2009. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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