Sarah Charlesworth’s Camera Work

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Sarah Charleworth, Camera Work, 2009

The Whitney Biennale this year featured a dramatic work by Sarah Charlesworth, known for her “formally concise images that address the many philosophical, political, and personal dimensions of the act of looking.”

Charlesworth, who died recently, was a prominent member of the so-called Pictures Generation, those mainly New York artists who rose to prominence in the 1970s through their critiques of media culture. Along with Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons and Sherrie Levine, the focus of Charlesworth’s art was the commercial cultures of photography, advertising, television and their political undercurrents, for example the gender stereotyping of the entertainment industries. “I’ve engaged questions regarding photography’s role in culture for 12 years now, but it is an engagement with a problem rather than a medium.”

The above late work from 2009 plays on the physics of photography using the title of Alfred Stiegleitz’ Camerawork magazine of the early 1900s. Camerawork helped establish photography as an art form and was arguably an ancestor to Charlesworth’s own practice as a photo media artist.

 “…the silhouetted image of a camera is presented in both positive and negative, images that are visually opposed but ultimately form a reciprocal diagram of photographic production; the camera stands in for the labor and the vision of the artist herself.” (Whitney)

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