Higher Pictures Generation presents an exhibition of new photographic collages by Justine Kurland. This is the artist’s second presentation with the gallery.
In 1967 the radical feminist and writer Valerie Solanas sold copies of her newly authored SCUM Manifesto on the streets of New York’s Greenwich Village, charging $1 ($2 if the buyer was a man). It opens with an incisive description of her project: “[. . .] SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men), which will eliminate through sabotage all aspects of society not relevant to women (everything), bring about a complete female take-over, eliminate the male sex and begin to create a swinging, groovy, out-of-sight female world.”
Kurland’s Society for Cutting Up Men’s Books is an object-based, tactile imagining of matriarchal paradise, which she explored in her earliest body of work, Girl Pictures (1997–2002), and again in Mama Babies (2004–07). Seeking and picturing freedom, at the core of much of Kurland’s work, is located here in the artistic act itself: Kurland is purging her own cherished library of photography books authored by white men. Historical figures who have become the foundation of the history of photography, and their contemporary male heirs by primogeniture, have their pictures chopped up and reauthored by Kurland. The nature of collage—heterogeneous, pulled apart, shape shifting, disrupted, cyborg, fantasy—has long made it a feminist strategy in life and in art. Kurland’s is a restorative and loving ritual. Each collage is a reclamation of history; a dismemberment of the patriarchy; a gender inversion of the usual terms of possession; and a modest attempt at offsetting a life of income disparity. Before making the work available to collectors Kurland offered to sell them to the original photographers. None of the men have taken her up on her offer.
An accompanying publication, featuring a text by the artist, is available through the gallery.
Justine Kurland (b. 1969) studied photography at the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. The two-person exhibition Bruce Kurland & Justine Kurland – Two Worlds: Illusion & Document is currently on view at the University of Buffalo. Her work was recently included in the 2020 Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie, Mannheim, Germany and in exhibitions at CEPA Gallery, Buffalo; and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York. Kurland’s recent monograph, Justine Kurland: Girl Pictures, was published by Aperture in 2020. She is represented in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.
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