University of Houston Libraries, Special Collections

Guide to the Houston Gorilla Girls

Overview of the Collection

Creator Collector Gorilla Girls (Group of artists: Houston, Tex.)
Collection Title Houston Gorilla Girls Records
Dates 1985-2000
Identification 02/2010-006
Physical Description 10.00 linear feet
Language of Materials English
Repository University of Houston Libraries M.D. Anderson Library 4333 University Drive Houston, TX, 77204-2000 URL: Email: Phone: 713-743-9229

Historical Note:

In the Spring of 1985, the walls of Lower Manhattan’s Soho and West Village neighborhoods became plastered with “Public Service Announcements” railing against sexism in the art world.  At the bottom of each poster was stamped:

“The Guerilla Girls

Conscience of the art world.”

The anonymous art collective of gorilla-masked women that was behind the feminist propaganda campaign began appearing soon thereafter at well-known museums and Galleries in New York City.  The enigmatic hominid-clad protesters quickly gained notoriety and copycat groups began springing up in cities throughout North America.

In May of 1987, one such group, the self-styled Houston “Gorilla Girls,” made their first “hit” at the Glassell School of Art in Houston’s Museum District. They then went on to demonstrate against what they perceived as sexism and racism at high-profile Houston art venues such as the Menil, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Lawndale Arts Center.

The Houston Gorilla Girls’ string of “hits,” performances, and installations ran from 1987 to 1997, when they performed a final show in Verona, Italy at the Villa Carlotta. During their period of activity they became a fixture of the Houston arts scene and are credited with helping open its doors to more female and minority artists.  To date, the identities and whereabouts of the Houston Gorilla Girls remain unknown.

Scope and Contents

This collection includes the records, written works, collected writings, and photographs that document the development of the Houston Gorilla Girls, an anonymnous women’s art collective that protested sexism and racism in the art world from the 1987 to the late nineties.  There are nine series, spanning from 1985 to 2000 which are entitled as follows:  Correspondence; Organizational Documents and Photographs; Propaganda; Diverse Works Installation: Another Dead Horse; Rice University Installation at the Sewell Gallery: “Been Down So Long Feels Like Up To Me”; Other Gorilla Girls Installations and Shows: 1988-1997; Miscellaneous Clippings, Photographs, Articles, and Correspondence; New York City Guerrilla Girls; and Guerrilla/Gorilla Girls, Other Cities.

The collection is housed in ten boxes, eight of which contain original costumes and installation material.


Conditions Governing Access:

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use:

Special Collections owns the physical items in our collections, but copyright normally belongs to the creator of the materials or their heirs. The researcher has full responsibility for determining copyright status, locating copyright holders, and abiding by current copyright laws when publishing or displaying copies of Special Collections material in print or electronic form. For more information, consult the appropriate librarian.

Reproduction decisions will be made by Special Collections staff on a case-by-case basis. Patrons are responsible for obtaining permission to publish from copyright holders.

Access Terms

This Collection is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Corporate Name:
Gorilla Girls (Group of artists: Houston, Tex.)
Genre/Form of Material:
Clippings (information artifacts)
Greeting cards
Manuscripts (document genre)
Topical Term:
Art -- Texas -- Houston
Artists -- Texas -- Houston
Feminism and art
Women artists -- Texas -- Houston

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation:

Houston Gorilla Girls Records. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.

Detailed List of Contents

ArchonID id123771
Organizational Documents and Photographs

Scope and Contents
This series contains ten folders comprised of documents and photographs that narrate the development of the Houston Gorilla Girls in financial statements, clippings, posters, correspondence and photographs.
Box Folder
1 1 ArchonID id123787
Houston Gorilla Girls Organizational Correspondence 1987-1988
2 ArchonID id123788
Notebook containing miscellaneous notes and correspondence undated
3 ArchonID id123789
Federal Non-Profit I.D. 1989
4 ArchonID id123790
Bank Statements and Receipts (Central Bank): Financial documentation 1989-1992
5 ArchonID id123791
Donations by the Gorilla Girls: donation-related documents 1988
6 ArchonID id123792
Miscellaneous Influences: Clippings, manuscript and posters 1987-1993
7 ArchonID id123793
Gorilla Girls Houston Garden Shots: Black and White and Color Prints 1987
8 ArchonID id123794
New Years Eve 1990: black and white prints
9 ArchonID id123795
Gorilla Pictures and Cartoons: clipped gorilla images undated
10 ArchonID id123796
Miscellaneous photographs: black and white and color prints undated

ArchonID id123772

Scope and Contents
This series contains seven folders of typescript and manuscript correspondence along with original mailing lists between the Gorilla Girls and members of the arts community in Houston and internationally.
Box Folder
1 11 ArchonID id123798
Galleries and Museums 1987-1991
12 ArchonID id123799
Correspondence/Women: typescript and manuscript (1 of 2) 1988-1993
13 ArchonID id123800
Correspondence/Women: typescript and manuscript (2 of 2) 1987-2000
14 ArchonID id123801
Patricia Johnson Houston Chronicle: typescript correspondence 1988
15 ArchonID id123802
Letters of Interest: typescript and manuscript correspondence 1988-1990
16 ArchonID id123803
Mailing Lists: sheets of labled addresses 1990
17 ArchonID id123804
Cultural Arts Council of Houston (CACH) correspondence 1992

ArchonID id123773

Scope and Contents
This series contains two sub-series that document the ways in which the Gorilla Girls tried to institute change through artistic persuasion. Housed within are photographs, correspondence, costume pieces, and original protest placards and flyers.
ArchonID id123780
Printed and Photographed Material
Box Folder
1 18 ArchonID id123806
Glassel - 1st Appearance: photocopied protest material, negatives, and articles 5/28/1987
19 ArchonID id123807
Mail-Outs-Gallery Hits: progaganda posters 1987-1990
20 ArchonID id123808
Report Card: manuscript, news releases, and poster templates 1990
21 ArchonID id123809
CACH Action: mailing lists and propaganda placards undated
22 ArchonID id123810
Statistics: flyers and protest placard undated
23 ArchonID id123811
MFA Houston “Hit,”: clippings and other printed material 1988
24 ArchonID id123812
Museum of Fine Arts Houston “Hit”: Photographs and slides 1988
25 ArchonID id123813
Davis and McClain Gallery “Hit” Photographs undated
26 ArchonID id123814
Menil “Hit”: articles, brochures, photographs, and protest materials 1988-1991
27 ArchonID id123815
New Year Mail Out: posters and clippings 1990
ArchonID id123781
Costume Pieces
Scope and Contents
One box of gorilla masks, rubber stamps, and other costume material.

ArchonID id123774
Diverse Works Installation: “Another Dead Horse”

Scope and Contents
This series contains two sub-series, comprised of 13 folders and seven boxes of documentation and artifacts pertaining to the 1998 Gorilla Girls installation at the Diverse Works Art Space.
ArchonID id123782
Installation Documentation
Box Folder
1 28 ArchonID id123818
Planning Material: notebooks and paper patterns 1987
29 ArchonID id123819
Expenses notebook, patterns, brochures, and manuscript financial documentation 1987-1988
30-31 ArchonID id123820
Correspondence, calendars, and financial documents 1986-1988
32 ArchonID id123822
Clippings 1988
33-36 ArchonID id123823
Photographs 1987
37-39 ArchonID id123827
Slides 1987
40 ArchonID id123830
Diverse Works DVD’s, dubbed from video casettes 1988
ArchonID id123783
Installation Artifacts
Scope and Contents
This sub-series includes two sub-sub-series comprised of six boxes of 78 stuffed gorillas and one box of 12 caricature cut-outs that were part of the “Another Dead Horse” exhibit.
ArchonID id123784
Stuffed Gorillas
Scope and Contents
Seventy-eight total, stored in six boxes.
ArchonID id123785
Caricature Cutouts
Scope and Contents
Twelve caricature cut-outs, 1 collage piece, 1 paper maché gorilla doll, 3 cutout quotation placards, G.G. Installation cassette tape, and G.G.-1991 Burning Bush cassette tape.

ArchonID id123775
Rice University Installation at the Sewell Gallery: “Been Down So Long Feels Like Up To Me”

Scope and Contents
This series contains seven folders comprised of the financial and planning documents, clippings,photographs and other materials related to the Gorrilla Girls’ installation at Rice University’s Sewell Gallery entitled, “Been Down So Long Feels Like Up To Me.”
Box Folder
10 1 ArchonID id123839
Correspondence 1991
2 ArchonID id123840
Financial documents 1991-1992
3 ArchonID id123841
Installation schematics and exhibit material 1987-1992
4-5 ArchonID id123842
Clippings 1987-1993
6 ArchonID id123844
Photographs undated
7 ArchonID id123845
Slides undated

ArchonID id123776
Other Gorilla Girls Installations and Shows 1988-1997

Scope and Contents
This series contains nine folders composed of printed material that document various art shows and installations undertaken by Gorilla Girls Houston between 1988 and 1997, including one show that was put on in Verona, Italy.
Box Folder
10 8 ArchonID id123847
Art Car Parade: Color prints 1988
9 ArchonID id123848
Foto Fest 1990: Correspondence, brochures, slides and photographs 1989-1990
10 ArchonID id123849
Foto Fest 1990 Banner: Large paint on burlap banner
11 ArchonID id123850
The Orange Show: Typed correspondence 1989-1991
12 ArchonID id123851
Houston Women’s Caucus for Art (HWCA) Firehouse Show, “Buring Bush,” installation material and clippings 1991
13 ArchonID id123852
HWAC Firehouse Show, “Burning Bush” Installation Material 1991
14 ArchonID id123853
Lawndale: Press releases and brochures 1993
15 ArchonID id123854
Verona, Italy Show at the Villa Carlotta: color prints 1997-1998
16 ArchonID id123855
Miscellaneous Gorilla Girls Press: Articles, guest-message booklets, certificates, and flyers 1987-2000

ArchonID id123777
Miscellaneous Clippings, Photographs, Articles, and Correspondence

Scope and Contents
This series contains six folders of printed material and photographs that members of the Houston Gorilla Girls saved to be used in installations and as reference material for panel discussions.
Box Folder
10 17 ArchonID id123857
Irritating Bullshit: photocopied nude photograph 1987
18 ArchonID id123858
Feminist quotes, typescript and manuscript 1987
19 ArchonID id123859
Feminist Clippings 1987
20 ArchonID id123860
Feminist Clippings undated
21 ArchonID id123861
Articles of Interest and Statistics: clippings and manuscript 1987-1997
22 ArchonID id123862
Miscellaneous/Influences, Articles and Notes 1987-1992

ArchonID id123778
New York City Guerrilla Girls

Scope and Contents
This series contains two folders of clippings, articles, and protest materials from the original New York City group.
Box Folder
10 23 ArchonID id123864
Guerrilla Girls N.Y. Backround Material: Photocopied correspondence and clippings (1 of 2) 1985-2000
24 ArchonID id123865
Guerrilla Girls N.Y. Backround Material: Transcripts and clippings (2 of 2) 1987-1992

ArchonID id123779
Guerrilla/Gorilla Girls, Other Cities

Scope and Contents
This series contains three folders of correspondence, protest material, brochures, and photographs that detail the activities of Guerrilla/Gorilla Girls in different parts of the United States.
Box Folder
10 25 ArchonID id123867
Los Angeles and Chicago propaganda flyers undated
26 ArchonID id123868
Dallas Guerrilla Girls’ correspondence 1989
27 ArchonID id123869
Guerrilla Girls San Francisco correspondence 1989