Exhibition Dates: March 9 – May 31, 2019
Artist’s Reception: Saturday, March 9
6:00 – 8:00 pm
Greenburg will present the latest Revising History images alongside work from a new series, Colored Stories. New Revising History works express a blatant disenchantment with the prevailing white male gaze and the cultural constructs it celebrates. Colored Stories are abstract, minimalistic prints made by sampling colors from mid-century items marketed to American women; joyous palates were used to help this new consumer demographic forget their status as second-class citizens. Cultural Grooming is Greenburg’s third solo show at the Gallery.
Revising History calls attention to the power photography has in creating cultural ideals and mythologies.
Some reject the cultural ideals celebrated by the original snapshots that Revising History challenges, while others only see the elegant surface. The latter see the beauty queen, not the society that defines the standard of beauty, or role of women for that matter. A viewer’s ability to recognize historic and enduring issues faced by women through these images is what separates camps. The conformity, inequity, sexualization, and objectification celebrated by the original image should be discomforting. Greenburg’s work reveals the pervasiveness of “ideal aesthetics” in our vernaculars, and is exploring how (even our own) photography has an active role in reinforcing cultural norms.
We have begun to rescript the American past. My work continues to address this dangerous pitfall. I explore how aesthetics and a selective edit of photographs have been successful in crafting a narrative that forgets the racial, gender, and religious discriminations of the past.
Greenburg’s new works are smart, succinct, and poignant– nodding both to contemporary and historical problems. In Every photographer provided the opportunity, 2018 we get a peek backstage of the moment before a beauty pageant’s bathing suit competition. The girls line-up: one adjusts makeup, another gazes to the distance, hand clenched, gathering courage, and the last– the one Greenburg makes counterfeit- stares directly at us. The woman Greenburg impersonates plays it both ways– dangerous and safe. She is both confident and coy. Her eyes meet ours, yet she remains partially masked by a curtain. This moment should feel reductive and demoting, for it objectifies women, however our cultural conditioning has trained us to accept, even celebrate this type of image, and thereby encourages the behavior. Beauty continues to be promoted by society as one of the best ways for a woman to improve her future. The theme of the beauty pageant recurs in Greenburg’s work, acting at this point as a symbol of just how grotesque and alienating the power of the gaze can be both in a photograph and in life.
A girl as pretty as you doesn’t need any words at all, 2018, depicts an older man awkwardly encroaching on the personal space of a young woman at a party. Their elegant dress neither detracts from her discomfort, nor his unwelcome and awkward table-perched intrusion. Works like this connect to specific and type-experiences suffered by women. I was a vendor of drink but not of love, 2018 is reference and push-back to the infamous Mannet painting Un bar aux Folies Bergère from 1882, the central figure of winch is assumed to be a prostitute. The struggles of the past remain the struggles of the present.
The repercussions of forgetting the past seem to be playing out each day in the news. My work has never been more urgent. - Jennifer Greenburg
A new and notable body of work has been added to Greenburg’s exhibition and will accompany the more traditional Revising History images: Colored Stories. The artist describes this body of work as color samples: large-scale color swatch prints (60 x 10 in.) as the ultimate reduction of aesthetic. Colored Stories boil aesthetics down to raw elements; the abstract, minimalistic prints are made from samples taken from mid-century items marketed to American women during WWII, the Vietnam War, and the Civil Rights movement. Joyous palates were used to help American women, who were suddenly a consumer demographic, forget their status as second-class citizens. Ironically, the fetishization of these colors and items, within the 21st Century, cause the same effect– they allow us to forget an unbalanced past rife with inequality.
About the Artist: Jennifer Greenburg is an Associate Professor of Photography at Indiana University Northwest. She holds a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and an MFA from the University of Chicago. An emerging artist, Greenburg continues to gain the steady attention from curators and the press. Her work is in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Contemporary Photography and Midwest Photographers Project, Chicago; The Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; and Light Work Syracuse.
About the Artist’s Process: To make the work Greenburg uses a multi-disciplinary performative process whereby she replaces the figure in a found vernacular image (late 1920’s – late 1960’s) with herself. She dons period costume, fixes hair and makeup to match, gets into character, and photographs herself doing what they were doing- exactly, in the original. She photographs herself playing "them" for a moment. Her final step is to merge the two images- the old negative and the new (full-figure) portrait.