Two artists find new uses for old photographs

Posted: March 11, 2013

Just when you thought all possible uses for found vintage photographs had been exhausted by artists and photographers in their own work in various clever ways, along come Jennifer Greenburg and Anne Massoni, whose solo shows on the Print Center's second floor bring their personal and disparate visions to the anonymous found vintage image.

In "Revising History," Greenberg, a Chicago-based artist, presents a series of black-and-white inkjet prints that show her in everyday scenes that seem to have been shot in the 1950s but are in fact images from found negatives dating from that era into which she has inserted herself, replacing an individual in a picture with an image of herself, dressed and coiffed as a housewife of the time.

Greenburg's seamless manipulations of the original images of office parties, a funeral with an open casket (Greenburg playing possum inside), and a Ping Pong game are slightly reminiscent of Cindy Sherman's early black-and-white photographs of herself posing as various female characters. But Greenburg's strategy of putting herself in a scene from another time, from a photograph that is not her own, as well as her sense of humor, have much more in common with such Woody Allen films as The Purple Rose of Cairo and Midnight in Paris.

Like Greenburg, the New Jersey artist Anne Massoni combines a photographic image of her own creation with a found one in each of her works, but in her series, "Holding," Massoni's contributions (usually an unpeopled landscape or interior) and the found images (always of people and appearing to date from the 1930s or earlier) are separate, presented in a side-by-side format. She then paints a thin line between the two images, hinting at links between people and places.

In Gerard Tourist Ciglar Divide (Massoni titles both images using two identifying words for each, combining them into one title), the line connecting the frame of a painting in a stack of paintings on a sidewalk to an empty frame in an artist's studio suggests that they may be one and the same. It's tempting to imagine narratives for these works - I found myself thinking of separations between families during the two World Wars - but their air of mystery is better left undisturbed.


Print Center, 1614 Latimer St., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. 215-735- 6090 or www.printcenter.org. Through March 16.

Wangechi Mutu

The formerly tiny Leonard Pearlstein Gallery is inaugurating its handsome new 3,500-square-foot space in the URBN Center Annex on Filbert Street with a show that easily rises to the occasion: collages, films, and an installation by Kenya-born, Brooklyn-based contemporary artist Wangechi Mutu.

Mutu, whose works are in the permanent collections of MoMA, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, is probably best known for her collages reflecting on the objectification of women. These disturbing images, assembled from magazine clips (fashion glossies as well as porno mags), look like pornography seen through the lens of a Surrealist or a kaleidoscope - fragmented human parts that fit together to make a sexual female creature, the end results less explicit than alarming, as if her figures were concocted through mutilation.

A similar sense of horror and depravity is evoked by two of the videos Mutu is showing here. In Eat Cake a tall, glamorous woman in platform shoes positions herself on a chair in front of a huge chocolate cake. Swaying as if in a trance, she squats and begins eating it with her hands, slathering it on herself like mud or feces. In ShoeShoe, a clearly deranged woman wheels a shopping cart full of shoes down a city street, angrily hurling them like missiles as she heads toward the camera.

Mutu's installation, Suspended Playtime, in which bundled black plastic bags are suspended in rows from the gallery ceiling, is meant to evoke the soccer balls Kenyan children fashion from garbage bags - but of course it immediately summons a mass lynching.

This is deeply haunting work in every sense, and as powerful as a primal scream.


Drexel University's Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, 3401 Filbert St., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. www.drexel.edu./westphal. Through March 30.

Change up

Rebecca Rutstein's seventh solo show at Bridgette Mayer Gallery feels like a breakthrough for Rutstein; in any case, she has zeroed in on what was already there - networks based on wire-frame maps that were components of her paintings - and allowed these networks to take over most of the surfaces of paintings, seemingly drifting and disintegrating as they go.

Rutstein's palette seems also to have undergone a paring-down in paintings such as her monumentally scaled deep rift, in which turquoise and ultramarine mingle to suggest the ocean's depths, and hot bed, in which geological forms are portrayed in crimson and violet.

There are several multi-colored works here, by the way - and color is clearly encouraged at this gallery - but Rutstein is exploring a more eccentric, rigorous use of color in her latest work.


Bridgette Mayer Gallery, 709 Walnut St., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. 215-413-8893 or www. bridgettemayergallery.com. Through March 30.

"Art" by Edward J. Sozanski and "Galleries" by Edith Newhall appear on alternating Sundays.

 

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