Rosler’s unmatched ability to wield consumer culture’s opulence against itself made for a visually festive retrospective. But sober critique unites the Semiotics of the Kitchen star’s half century of uninhibited Conceptualism; her early photomontage series “House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home,” ca. 1967–72, with its plush interiors and window views of carnage, still stuns.
Although "Irrespective" is a remarkably fresh, thoughtfully curated overview of Martha Rosler’s art from the past fifty years, it does not aspire to be exhaustive. The exhibition features around seventy works, with not a single extraneous piece. Still, there is a wide selection, spanning from collages Rosler created in the late 1960s and early ’70s, when she was in graduate school at the University of California, San Diego, to a recent film about the Trump administration. Her long, productive career makes it difficult to categorize her practice. Conceptualism, feminism, appropriation, and relational aesthetics convey aspects of what she does, but none of these terms seems fully apposite. They leave something out, pigeonholing her into rubrics that simplify her concerns. As a kind of recourse, some commentators use the generalized label of “political” to describe Rosler’s approach. Politics is a thread that runs through everything the artist does; it is the baseline from which any activity commences. The diverse range of work in “Irrespective,” which viewers encounter in galleries filled with the background audio-wash of her videos, makes it clear that what really underlies her art is actually a kind of moral erudition.
Martha Rosler knows that a well-formulated suggestion is far more likely to change the world — or at least someone’s mind — than any command or decree. “Every single thing I have offered to the public has been offered as a suggestion of work,” says the 75-year-old Brooklyn-born artist. Whether it’s her photomontages or videos, her sculptures or her installations, each offering retains a lively air of possibility and buzzes with the connective creative energy of a sketch — a feat made all the more impressive by her choice of subject matter: consumerism, feminism, gentrification, poverty, and war. Floating free of cynicism and buoyed by compassion, Rosler’s work can be devastatingly funny or amusingly devastating, and often both.
Martha Rosler hated the protest literature of the 1960s and 1970s. As she explained to Jewish Museum curator Darsie Alexander in a November talk, the messiness of the design was rivaled only by that of the messaging: no images, but jargon-heavy text more likely to be thrown out than to inspire action. Rosler thought, “Can I do better?” Could she show the horrors of war, of sexism, of the hidden and obvious ways women are looked down on?
In a working life spanning more than fifty years, Martha Rosler has made art that eschews medium-specificity, asks questions, offers propositions, and invites responses. While idea often appears to drive material expression for Rosler, she also considers, beyond a politics of representation, questions of visuality and aesthetics—a likely influence of her early training as a painter.
Martha Rosler: Irrespective, an exhibition of works spanning the astonishing breadth of the artist’s fifty-plus-year career, is a tightly curated, highly focused exhibition—a survey organized around a discrete set of themes Rosler engages (war, consumerism, domesticity, politics, and mass media, to name a few) rather than a full retrospective.
Rosler is fearless in her social, cultural and political observations about the contemporary United States, beginning in the era of the Vietnam War. Her work—always brainy—courses through a variety of subject matter: war, gender, gentrification, domesticity, inequality, and labor, but—like Goya—it is not without humor. Rosler’s wit is sharp, penetrating and unsettling.
A multidisciplinary artist, writer and social activist, Martha Rosler has spent 50 years delivering biting feminist critiques on subjects ranging from gender to gentrification. But she is perhaps best known for her collages that juxtapose housekeeping ads with scenes from the U.S. wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Now the Jewish Museum is focusing on these works and others as part of its survey “Martha Rosler: Irrespective.” Recently, Rosler sat down with us at her home and studio in Greenpoint to discuss her work, her neighborhood and the real meaning of cooking shows.
The title of her new exhibition, “Irrespective,” now on view at the Jewish Museum in New York through March 3, 2019, combines the words “irreverent” and “retrospective” and draws on her skepticism about having her work in institutions in the first place. A survey of her work since 1965, it is her first exhibition in her native New York in more than 15 years.
The first major New York survey of Ms. Rosler’s art in 18 years has opened at the Jewish Museum, and runs through March 3. For some, the show, “Martha Rosler: Irrespective,” may be an introduction to the prolific artist whose caustic work — in addition to photomontage and video, she creates installation, sculpture, performance and digital media — has been alternately admired and reviled by the public and the art world since the 1960s. Her exhibitions have focused on tenant struggles and homelessness; the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; public space; and — very often — the experiences of women.
Self-absorption at the expense of social awareness may seem like an Instagram-born epidemic, but consider the Emperor Nero’s theatrics as fires were ravaging Rome. Since the mid-nineteen-sixties, the trenchant Conceptualist Martha Rosler has been fighting art-as-escapism with photomontages, videotapes, and installations, targeting the hypocrisy of war, sexism, gentrification, and other concerns that remain disconcertingly relevant. Rosler is also funny—her montages, an ongoing project that began in the Vietnam era, anticipated the Internet’s viral memes by decades—and she understands the power of humor to drive a point home.
A retrospective at the Jewish Museum spans Rosler’s five-decade career. Featuring installations, photographic series, sculpture, and video, the exhibit probes far beyond “Semiotics of the Kitchen” to show us one of the most witty and dogged feminist artists of our time. In one photo collage, blond women snap selfies in a mod mansion as flames blaze outside the windows. In an installation, various women’s lingerie and sleepwear congregate around a white mattress. The cluster of thongs and spanx and granny panties alludes to the stories clothes tell about the women who wear them. Or perhaps just the stories we buy into.
Riding the crest of first-wave feminist art, Rosler initially crashed onto the shores of the art world in the ’60s with pieces noted for their firebrand politics. During that time, and continuing until today, she’s deployed videos, photomontages and installations against targets ranging from sexism and the Vietnam War to inequality and gentrification—conjoined fronts, in her view, in an ongoing battle for social justice. This survey brings her career into focus, with a selection of works spanning 1965 to the present.
Given the ongoing political upheavals in the US, and the EU, what kind of artists’ work is relevant in an age of populist uprisings, when the far right is gaining power throughout the world? Martha Rosler and Hito Steyerl: War Games, one of the most important exhibitions of the year, offers compelling evidence in answer to such a question. This affectively and intellectually intriguing exhibition is noteworthy in demonstrating the surprising affinities and shared concerns across countries (US and Germany) and generations (’60s and ’90s) of two renowned women artists. Both are theoreticians and creative practitioners whose work reveals the capacity of art to understand and transform the violence which shapes our world.
The War Games proposed by Martha Rosler and Hito Steyerl in their new exhibition at Kunstmuseum Basel reflect the pitfalls of a war fought in the folds of media and technology in the present. The show, curated by Søren Grammel, compares the artistic research of the two artists, who are of different generations but nevertheless have many common threads.
Martha Rosler thinks that Vietnam anti-war literature of the 1960s and ’70s was hideous. “It would be these long texts that looked like they’d been translated from a foreign language, and they didn’t have images,” the artist remembered during a recent conversation with Artsy. The pamphlets and other materials, she said, looked like they were made by people who were somewhat demented. Rosler decided the cause needed a makeover.
The American artist is known for not being afraid to voice her political opinions. DW spoke to her about the state of the American Dream, the role of artists in turbulent political times and US President Donald Trump.
Since the early 1970s, through her photomontages, photographs, videos, installations, and critical writings, Martha Rosler has explored what mass-media images and public spaces reveal about power and persuasion in late capitalist society. “In the Place of the Public: The Airport Series,” her photographic exploration of the airport as postmodern space, dates from 1983 to the present. While Rosler has not changed the focus of the series, which remains on the airports’ interior architecture, she has changed the photographs’ accompanying text to reflect alterations in how airports are designed and utilized post-9/11. Earlier this year, she talked with ARTnews about the evolution of the series
Alongside the current exhibition Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s: Works From the Verbund Collection at The Photographers' Gallery, the new issue of the quarterly publication Loose Associations takes feminism as its subject. In this interview, artist Martha Rosler considers the past, and the future, of feminist art practice.
Martha Rosler is known for disrupting the standard exhibition format. She staged a giant garage sale in the atrium of New York’s Museum of Modern Art for her first solo there in 2012. Her current show at Mitchell-Innes & Nash reprises an ambitious project, titled “If You Lived Here,” at New York’s Dia Art Foundation in 1989. Each show in the series of three explored one issue—tenant struggles, homelessness, urban planning—presenting works by artists, filmmakers, squatters, children, and community groups, among others.
For this exhibition, which contains a section on each of the original themes, Rosler has subsumed herself under the name Temporary Office for Urban Disturbances to collaborate with scores of groups—such as 596 Acres, Inc., Center for Urban Pedagogy, New York City Community Land Initiative—and individuals, including LaToya Ruby Frazier, Gregory Sholette, and Robbie Conal. In addition to the dense hanging of artworks, posters, and other archival materials, along with an area to read books and watch videos, the exhibition features four town-hall discussions to examine pressing concerns about city life now.
There’s news every week now of the mayor’s administration scrambling to find another parking lot or piece of land for more tent cities and car camps in Seattle. Meanwhile, Seattle is chockablock with massive real estate developments and fresh tech recruits. This is a state of emergency, as declared by the mayor in November.
A local philanthropist is bringing in backup. The backup is 72-year-old Martha Rosler, an artist and a fighter. In 1989, she commandeered the Spectacolor sign in Times Square in her home city in order to smear the commercial center with the ugly facts of the nation’s poverty and housing crisis. That public artwork was called Housing Is A Human Right, which is also the title of Rosler’s new year of exhibitions, talks, and workshops in Seattle, starting this weekend.
In a yearlong group of exhibits that will stretch across Seattle, internationally known multimedia artist Martha Rosler takes on big issues.
When Shari D. Behnke and Yoko Ott decided to create a prize for the New Foundation Seattle, they decided to go big. Really big. One hundred thousand dollars big.
“Well, we wanted an amount that would say something,” said Behnke, in a room at the foundation’s small, chic Pioneer Square gallery.
Martha Rosler has been named as the inaugural recipient of the 100K Prize, a biennial award given by The New Foundation Seattle (TNFS) to an influential, US-based female artist (including transgender women) to celebrate and reward her artistic achievements.
The non-profit organization TNFS was founded in 2012 by art collector Shari D. Behnke, and includes support programs for artists as well as public programs.
New Foundation Seattle, a non-profit arts organization founded by art collector Shari D. Behnke, has named Martha Rosler as the first recipient of its new 100K Prize.
The prize—as advertised—offers $100,000 in cold, hard cash and comes with zero restrictions (you can buy 100,000 dollar-pizza slices if you want).
“I am honored and delighted to be the first recipient of the 100K Prize from The New Foundation Seattle, an award instituted in recognition of women artists whose work has shown a commitment to social justice,” Ms. Rosler said in a press release.
Representation gets a bad rap. Its inadequacy is inbuilt; it’s doomed to fail us; the thing it strives to capture and communicate endlessly eludes it. But it’s what we have, so we use our crude visual and verbal tools to circumscribe, gibber, and gesture. Drooling a bit, we imagine a method of communication that would translate its subject perfectly and entirely. Prior to the age of #nofilter, photography was believed to contain this possibility. Sometimes the medium —particularly the documentary genre — still pretends.
In the ’70s, photographer (and videographer, and rigorous cultural critic, and possible genius) Martha Rosler brought a critical eye, politically and philosophically, to the medium’s seductive pretenses of objectivity. Her photo-text piece ―The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems‖ (Dec. 1974–Jan. 1975), currently on display at the Lethaby Gallery in Central Saint Martins, wrestles with issues of representation and serves as a deadpan expression of her disappointment and frustration with mainstream humanist documentary.
Martha Rosler is known for her incisive social critique—her writing, mixed-media work, and
photography have been widely esteemed since the 1970s. Rosler and James Eischen met at her alumni reception at the University of California at San Diego, where she gave an artists’ talk as part of curator Michelle Hyun’s discussion-based project We’d Love Your Company.
Hairdressers, Trinidad, one of several diptychs in Martha Rosler’s “Cuba, January, 1981,” shows two women looking at each other. In the first image, the blonde addresses the camera, seemingly in mid-speech, while the brunette watches her in profile.
One of the more striking aspects of "Cuba, January 1981," Martha Rosler's exhibition of photographs that were taken decades ago from behind the Caribbean iron curtain and are now on display for the first time, is how, to paraphrase Matthew McConaughey's famous line in Dazed and Confused, while the rest of the world has aged, Cuba more or less remained frozen in a continuous revolutionary moment.
The agitprop photocollages that Rosler makes from borrowed materials are far more interesting than the photographs she takes, but both are the work of a fiercely engaged observer.
From video and collage to photography and writing, from feminism to social activism: Martha Rosler has influenced as many areas of endeavor as any artist alive. This month a show of never-before-seen photographs she took in Cuba some 30 years ago will open at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, in New York, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art will honor Rosler as part of its anual gala and the fifth anniversary of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.
e-flux and the Institut national d'histoire de l'art are pleased to announce the opening of Martha Rosler Library on Wednesday, November 14th at 18:30 hrs at Galerie Colbert. Comprised of approximately 7,700 titles from the artist's personal collection, the Library was opened to the public by eflux in November 2005 as a storefront reading room on Ludlow street in New York City.
Martha Rosler's exhibit "Bringing the War Home" at the Worcester Art Museum unites the New York artist's signature anti-Vietnam War montages with her recent anti-Iraq war work for a jolting, heartbreaking look at the echoes between the two conflicts. Rosler was a pioneering feminist and political artist of the '60s and '70s.