What We Learned From A.I.R. Gallery at Frieze New York

A.I.R. Gallery’s Roxana Fabius speaks to Frieze about reproductive justice rights, the art landscape in New York and the value of community-led art spaces

BY Roxana Fabius in Frieze New York | 23 MAY 22

"What is really impressive about the piece is that it visualizes, in a very direct manner, how much of the country, over 50% of states, will be affected in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned...we decided to use the platform of Frieze to bring forward [a concerned discussion of] the reproductive justice crisis that the country is going through."

Presented in collaboration with how to perform an abortion and the National Women’s Liberation, Trigger Painting shows a map of the US at a massive 45-feet wide, with each state delineated and a garden planted on those states that have trigger laws.  

We spoke to Roxana Fabius about A.I.R. Gallery and their installation, and this is what we learned…  

1. Abortion is historically a community-led practice 

When asked what she took away from the installation, Roxana highlighted her new appreciation for the history of abortion as a community practice. Notably, the herbs planted in the garden of Trigger Planting are those which have been used for thousands of years to manage fertility. 

“We think about abortion as a medical procedure, which of course it is”, says Roxana, “but it was also, for millennia, performed in our communities and used as a way for women and pregnant people all over the world to take care of each other.” 

Trigger Warning, how to perform an abortion, National Women's Liberation, courtesy of A.I.R. Gallery; Photo: Casey Kelbaugh
how to perform an abortion, Trigger Planting, courtesy of A.I.R. Gallery & the National Women's Liberation; Photo: Casey Kelbaugh

2. Resource sharing and staying informed is integral to reproductive justice  

A major goal of Trigger Planting is to encourage people to not only support one another through this crisis but also, to access the A.I.R. resource page and share it with fellow activists, people affected by these laws and their wider network. 

Roxana stresses that “it is so important to support non-profit organizations working for the cause but also, on an individual level, it is about general reproductive justice education and staying informed”.  

3. New York needs more community-directed art spaces 

After the isolation and distance created by the pandemic, it is more important than ever to have spaces in which artists can coexist, meet and work together. There is a revived need for a cooperative approach to doing things and spaces like the A.I.R. Gallery offer a viable solution to this need. 

Roxana highlights the special value of community projects and art spaces: "I think community-based organizations are so important because they fulfil different needs to larger institutions. People feel like a sense of ownership over the space, and this affords them a greater sense of artistic freedom and agency”.  

“I feel like New York needs more spaces like A.I.R. for sure, but there are also more cooperative spaces being born and great spaces that have existed for a long time...it is amazing how artists continue to organize and empower themselves.” 

About A.I.R. Gallery 

A.I.R. Gallery (Artists in Residence, Inc.) is a feminist cooperative art space dedicated to the support of women and non-binary artists. It was founded in 1972 by a group of 20 women and established for those that were not represented in commercial art spaces and institutions at the time. A.I.R. worked with and platformed iconic women artists of that era, ranging from Ana Mendieta to Agnes Denes, and has been allowing artistic freedom of expression for many artists since. 

Find out more about A.I.R. Gallery at Frieze New York 2022

Frieze New York 2023

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Main image: how to perform an abortion, Trigger Planting, courtesy of A.I.R. Gallery & the National Women's Liberation; Photo: Casey Kelbaugh

Roxana Fabius is a contemporary art curator and art historian. She is currently Executive Director at A.I.R. (Artists in Residence) Gallery in Brooklyn, New York.