Dangerous frock rock, stray dags and other works from the girls at Sydney's Tin Sheds

Leonie Lane, Tin Sheds Posters, 4th marxist summer school 1981

The exhibition Girls at the Tin Sheds: Sydney Feminist Posters 1975–90 celebrates women artists and poster makers at the Tin Sheds, Sydney University.

The Tin Sheds is a space which started as an experiment in alternative art education and became an important hothouse for social and political debates during the 1970s and ’80s.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of International Women’s Year, the exhibition at University Art Gallery presents original posters on feminism, the environmental movement as well as Aboriginal and migrant rights.

Curator Katie Yuill says the women’s movement was by far the most important.

Angela Gee, Lucifoil Posters don’t log rainforest 1981

The exhibition opens in a heated 1975 with its struggles for gender equality galvanised by International Women’s Year, outrage at the sacking of the Whitlam Government and building tensions over the environment and Aboriginal land rights.

The women’s movement was central to a diverse range of art forms, campaigns, parties and projects instigated at the Tin Sheds and posters were each movement’s public face.

Posters would be plastered along the corrugated fence on City Road.

Some supported the sexual politics of liberation with headings: “Why should women always be responsible for contraception?”.

Or promoting a feminist aesthetic with headlines such as “Women propose a new feminist cinema” or just advertising another “Frock rock” benefit which showed feminists to be not just overall-clad amazons on the march but also femme fatales on the dance floor.

The university’s Art Gallery senior curator Ann Stephen said:

“The instigators of the Tin Sheds were counter-culture architects and artists who sought to offer art workshops to architecture and art history students as well as providing 24-hour open access to a wider community. A precarious marginality was part of its edgy sociality, as students rubbed shoulders with a motley bunch of artists, filmmakers, musicians, and a gamut of political activists from the Women Behind Bars group to the local Aboriginal community.”

The exhibition includes work from artists including Marie McMahon, Jan Mackay, Toni Robertson, Jean Clarkson, Pam Debenham, Jan Fieldsend, Angela Gee, Leonie Lane and Avril Quail.

Leonie Lane, Lucifoil Posters, frock rock 1982

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