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“Sarah Charlesworth: Doubleworld” currently on display at New Museum is the first major survey in New York of the artist’s work to date, encompassing an innovative career that played a crucial role in expanding the possibilities of photography and establishing the medium’s centrality to contemporary art. Invested with rare precision and dedication, Charlesworth’s influential body of work and philosophy on art-making continue to reverberate and take on shifting significance with time as new technologies emerge and our inexhaustible reservoir of images expands with astonishing speed.
Her influential body of work deconstructed the conventions of photography and gave emphasis to the medium’s importance in mediating our perception of the world. Charlesworth’s practice bridged the incisiveness of 1970s Conceptual art and the illuminating image-play of the later-identified “Pictures Generation.” She was part of a group of artists working in New York in the 1980s—which included Jack Goldstein, Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, and Laurie Simmons, among others—that probed the visual language of mass media and illuminated the imprint of ubiquitous images on our everyday lives.
This exhibition at the New Museum features Charlesworth’s poignant series “Stills” (1980), a group of fourteen large-scale works rephotographed from press images that hauntingly depict people falling or jumping off of buildings. The installation of “Stills” marks the first time that the complete series has been displayed in New York and is presented alongside other prominent works by the artist: her groundbreaking series “Modern History” (1977–79), which pioneered photographic appropriation; the alluring and exacting “Objects of Desire” (1983–88) and “Renaissance Paintings” (1991), which continued Charlesworth’s trenchant approach to mining the language of photography; “Doubleworld” (1995), which probes the fetishism of vision in premodern art; and her radiant latest series, “Available Light” (2012). The title of the exhibition is taken from one of her photographs, Doubleworld (1995), from the series of the same name, which presents two nineteenth-century stereoscopic viewing devices, each holding a stereophotograph depicting two women standing side by side. The continuous doubling of images in this work underscores the duplicitous role of the photograph as an alternate, optical universe and a stand-in for the physical world.
Exhibition runs: June 24 – September 20, 2015