This thesis examines artist and curator Tom Marioni’s curation of artwork by women at the Museum of Conceptual Art (MOCA), an alternative exhibition space Marioni founded in San Francisco in 1970. Marioni applied the principles of his socially-driven artistic practice to MOCA, making MOCA a crucial convening ground for Bay Area conceptual and performance artists. MOCA’s artist roster reflected the biases of the regional art scene at the time, with only four women featured in MOCA’s fourteen years of programming. However, Marioni also provided a platform for important feminist works during these years. This thesis analyzes three case studies that frame this paradox: Marioni’s group exhibition, California Girls (1971); Barbara T. Smith’s feminist performance, Feed Me (1973); and Lynn Hershman Leeson’s site-specific installation, Dante Hotel (1973–74). These case studies demonstrate that Marioni’s informal curatorial approach privileged social connections over critical curatorial functions, thus unintentionally perpetuating patriarchal systems of power.
Keywords: conceptual art, performance art, curatorial studies, museum studies, Bay Area Conceptualism, feminist art history, second wave feminism.