EXHIBITION DATES: MARCH 19 - MAY 28, 2016
ARTIST'S OPENING RECEPTION: SATURDAY, MARCH 19 | 6-8 PM | RSVP REQUIRED.
A city-kid from Chicago Jennifer Greenburg reveals the grit behind the glitter. She always knew she was an artist. She just did. As such, she has certain obligations- it is her job to record and reveal. Greenburg is an observer, a collector, and was a documentarian before she became disillusioned by the form. Everything in her life has led up to this- Revising History. The ongoing series is refining; this is the artist’s second solo show of the work at the Gallery. It is decidedly darker than earlier work, though it all belongs to the same creative body.
Revising History is playful and tongue and cheek, but if that’s all you see, you may have already succumbed to the trappings of the cultural tropes the work underlines. Revising History challenges our conception of history. The work reminds us how images function. It addresses revisionism, and the way we un/knowingly apply it to photographs every time we see them. It asks us to re-evaluate the photographs we seek, make, and save. It asks us to re-read these visual documents with a little more care- do they prove our uniqueness or our conformity, our depth or our corruption of character?
Revising History starts by breaking the connection between the moment and the referent. To make the work the artist inserts herself into found images, taking the place of a figure in the original. She dons period costume, gets into character, and photographs herself doing what they were doing- exactly, in the original. She plays "them" for a moment. Her final step is to merge the two images- the old negative and the new (full-body) portrait.
I intend for this series to engage the audience in a conversation about the way we interpret the media, record personal memories, and establish collective history… [this] is a study on photography, the nature of the vernacular image, and its role in creating cultural allegories. - Jennifer Greenburg
The Artist’s method is relevant to her intent. By disrupting images, Greenburg alerts us to their betrayal. She addresses revisionism by using it. By appearing in the work and by printing the images much larger than the period prints, we are immediately conscious of an intervention. We realize regardless of this that meaning is still conveyed. So what of it? New histories are written every time we see a photograph; we should take time to evaluate what they tell us.
The bulk of the negatives Greenburg appropriates are from 1940-1960, but they extend as early as the 1920’s and as late as1975. In truth, the date is less important to the artist than the content embedded in the images- the moment fetishized by these paper trophies.
All of these works are from the perceived golden era of America. History positions America on a high throne post World Wars. Still a young country, we pushed ourselves into the global arena and came out victors of tyranny, heroes of war, and saviors of morals. Our economy was growing and middle-America was thriving – or at least that’s how we seem to remember it. Mid-century was also a time of division; the battle lines of race, class, gender and sexual orientations emerged. As time marched on equity was fought for, and acceptance was won, or at least that’s how we would like to remember it. In truth, these battles are ongoing; their history extends in both directions- past and future.
Greenburg’s new Revising History works tend toward images that underline the cultural norms celebrated by the idealized era. Looking at these moments again, we see the period and its values in a new light. Titles reinforce the double-edged nature of the Revising History images.
Many of the images I am now working with are neither celebratory nor comfortable. Viewers may be unsettled by scenarios they imagine as they see me recoil from a senior colleague at a work-party; stare blindly at someone else’s birthday cake; or self-degrade even as I win the beauty pageant. I seek the disturbing images as much as the seemingly “idyllic” ones. By (re)processing a cross-section of the past I am creating a dialogue about the constructs still entrapped in our national psyche. – Jennifer Greenburg.