Earlier feminists tackled grim and unfunny issues such as sexual violence, inspiring the Guerrilla Girls to keep their spirits intact by approaching their work with wit and laughter, thus preventing a backlash.
The Guerrilla Girls' projects (mostly posters at first) express observations, concerns, and ideals regarding numerous social topics.
They also took on projects outside of New York, enabling them to address sexism and racism nationally and internationally.
Though the art world has remained the group's main focus, the Guerrilla Girls' agenda has included sexism and racism in films, mass and popular culture, and politics. During its first years, the Guerrilla Girls conducted "weenie counts," such that members visited institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and counted artworks' male-to-female subject ratios.
Women artists earn only 1/3 of what men do." These early posters often targeted specific galleries and artists.
Another 1985 poster listed the names of some of the most famous working artists, such as Bruce Nauman and Richard Serra. Next to the text is an image of the Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres painting La Grande Odalisque, one of the most famous female nudes in Western art history, with a gorilla head placed over the original face.
Offers that pose a dilemma are carefully considered, so as to avoid censure, since one way to improve institutions is to criticize them from inside.They are no different than their ground-breaking street artist peers such as Robbie Conal, Jenny Holzer and Keith Haring.The first posters were mainly black and white fact-sheets, highlighting inequalities between male and female artists with regard to number of exhibitions, gallery representation and pay.From the beginning the press wanted publicity photos. No one remembers, for sure, how we got our fur, but one story is that at an early meeting, an original girl, a bad speller, wrote 'Gorilla' instead of 'Guerrilla.' It was an enlightened mistake.It gave us our 'mask-ulinity.'" Since 1985, the Guerrilla Girls have witnessed many positive changes, including an increased awareness of sexism and greater accountability on the part of curators, art dealers, collectors and critics.The pioneering feminist critic, Lucy Lippard curated an all-women exhibition in 1974, effectively protesting what most deemed a deeply flawed approach, that of merely assimilating women into the prevailing art system.Shaped by the 1970s women’s movement, the Guerrilla Girls resolved to devise new strategies.Their posters revealed how sexist the art world was in comparison to other industries and to national averages.For example, in 1985 they printed a poster showing that the salary gap in the art world between men and women was starker than the United States average, proclaiming "Women in America earn only 2/3 of what men do.Their art has always been fact-driven, and informed by the group's unique approach to data collection, such as "weenie counts." To be more inclusive and to make their posters more eye-catching, the Guerrilla Girls tend to pair facts with humorous images.Although the Guerrilla Girls gained fame for wheat-pasting provocative campaign posters around New York City, the group has also enjoyed public commissions and indoor exhibitions.