For more than four decades, Nancy Youdelman has exemplified the feminist art movement’s enduring impact on the course of post-World War II art. One of fifteen students led by Judy Chicago in the establishment of the nation’s first feminist art program at California State University, Fresno, in 1970, Youdelman continued her art studies at CalArts’s Feminist Art Program, during which she participated in the seminal exhibition “Womanhouse” in 1972. In the intervening years, she has defined a singular artistic vocabulary that internalizes the Pattern & Decoration movement’s innovations to extend the use of “female technologies” inclusive of costume design, sewing, flower pressing, and a bevy of other domestic craft techniques.
In taking its title from Marcel Proust’s observation that “The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect,” “Outside the Realm” foregrounds Youdelman’s ongoing exploration of the relationship between objects and memory. In addition to the feminist conceit of situating fashion as an intermediary between the body and society, the exhibition explores clothing’s intimations of its absent wearers – effortlessly evoking a more universalized nostalgia. Throughout, the cumulative debris of lived experience – buttons, jewelry, photos, letters, dried flowers, among an assortment of other mementos – reflect the contingencies of recollection and desire. Operating at the intersections between preciousness and potency, beauty and banality, individual experience and cultural memory, Youdelman’s assemblages assert points at which the weathered and degraded emerge as the foundations for a strikingly expressive and continuously singular artistic practice.