The importance of Sarah Charlesworth's work cannot be overstated. She was part of the original generation of photographers who explored the medium as art. If it wasn't for artists like Charlesworth, you wouldn't be reading this magazine. She studied at The New School, and went on to create some of the most interesting conceptual pieces, and had the uncanny ability to force the art viewer to consider what it was they were looking at. Not through photographic effect, but she challenged the very idea of what a photograph was – commodity, art, or advertising. Her recent show at the Maccarone Gallery Objects of Desire 1983 – 1988 shows pieces that, obviously, came from her work in the 80's. Charlesworth uses found images that she then pasted them onto solid backgrounds of the same color, playing with shadow, depth perception and still life. Daniel Gordon is her direct decedent in this regard. Charlesworth's inclusion of found printed products – mostly magazines and advertisements puts into question what exactly is the art? Certainly not the cut out piece of Vogue, probably not a red frame, maybe not a single color panel (although clearly that could be debated, hi Yves Klein and Kate Shepherd).
Actually when viewed through the lens of painting Charlesworth work in this show demonstrates heavy influence from the minimalist and monochrome painters. Barnett Newman and Olivier Mosset's color fields that expanded into the divided colors of Ellsworth Kelly and the psychedelic Frank Stella all become a part of 1983 – 1988. Without sounding too ridiculous one could draw a fairly straight line from Mondrian to Charlesworth.
It's part of that tie to painterly tradition that make her work stand out, that proved to the establishment that photography was an art form to be taken seriously, and, although she was not in the original 1977 “Pictures” show she took her rightful place along side Cindy Sherman in the 2004 “Pictures” show at MOMA.
The exhibition is wonderful and will last until June 21st.
Text by John Hutt
Photographs by Xiaofeng Li
Carroll Dunham; Mel Kendrick; Francine Hunter McGivern