Though photographer Sarah Charlesworth was considered a member of the “Pictures Generation” school that included Cindy Sherman and Laurie Simmons, she didn’t gain as much notoriety as her contemporaries during her lifetime. Since her death in 2013, however, her work has undergone a critical reappraisal. In PDN‘s September issue, which features only women photographers, we chose to highlight the retrospective on display now through September 20 at the New Museum in New York City. “Sarah Charlesworth: Doubleworld” is the first major survey in New York City of the artist’s 35-year-career.
Starting in the 1970s, Charlesworth reacted to the ubiquity of photography in popular culture (yes, that was a phenomenon even before the internet) by making images that reflected on mass media or techniques of image making. The New Museum show includes “Objects of Desire (1983-1988), which features fashion images from which Charlesworth erased certain key details, and “Doubleworld,” which requires viewers to look through nineteenth-century stereoscopic viewing devices to see stereo-photos of women looking back at the viewer. Working in partnership with the Art Institute of Chicago, the New Museum has installed the full set of the 1980 series “Stills,” in which Charlesworth rephotographed news images of people falling from buildings. The images are printed larger than life-size on vertical panels, and are not easy to look at (slide 3).
The exhibition is curated by Massimiliano Gioni, artistic director of the New Museum, and Margot Norton, associate curator. The exhibition catalogue features essays by Sherman, Simmons, Barbara Kruger and others who reflect on Charlesworth’s process, influence and the legacy of challenging work she leaves behind.