The Gender Show Opens

Posted by on Jun 12 2013 | Exhibitions, Photography


LEJAREN À HILLER (1950) Naval officer and young man on hillside with binoculars, overlooking battleship in bay below Color print, assembly (Carbro) process © Visual Studies Workshop / Image courtesy of George Eastman House International Museum of Photography & Film

Director’s Note – Since before Marcel Duchamp photographed Rrose Sélavy, his female alter ego, artists have used photography to explore issues of identity, sex, and gender. In recent decades, gender has been an increasingly prominent theme within contemporary art and, specifically, within photography. The Gender Show (on view through October 13) offers an extraordinary opportunity to see fifty contemporary artworks in the context of over 150 photographs from our worldclass collection.

The exhibition includes, on loan from artists and private collectors, a formidable set of photographs by prominent contemporary artists Janine Antoni (born 1964), Rineke Dijkstra (1959), Marilyn Minter (1948), Catherine Opie (1961), and Gillian Wearing (1963). Works by each of these artists have been exhibited extensively at leading museums, but this is the first time that any of their works has been shown at Eastman House.

Debbie Grossman (American, b. 1977) Jessie Evans-Whinery, homesteader, with her wife Edith Evans-Whinery and their baby 2010 From the series My Pie Town Archival pigment print ©Debbie Grossman, Courtesy Julie Saul Gallery, New York

The exhibition also includes ten photographs on loan from our trustee Elaine Goldman; gender issues are one of the themes in her wonderful collection. Also featured are videos by artists Jen DeNike (1971), Kalup Linzy (1977), and Martha Rosler (1943). In our Annex Gallery, we present sixteen photographs, on loan from artist Debbie Grossman (1977), from her recent My Pie Town series, in which she used Photoshop to manipulate a set of images of Pie Town, New Mexico, originally taken by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration in 1940.

The Gender Show, part of our ongoing program of major exhibitions from our permanent collection, is a survey of how photographs since the mid-nineteenth century have presented gender, with a special emphasis on the performances that the act of photographing or being photographed can encourage or capture. On view from our collection are photographs by many of the biggest names in the history of the medium—including Julia Margaret Cameron, August Sander, Edward Steichen, Nickolas Muray, Brassaï, Robert Frank, Andy Warhol, Barbara Norfleet, Mary Ellen Mark, and Cindy Sherman—as well as rarely seen cabinet cards depicting early vaudeville and music-hall stars.


In 1979, art scholar and critic Douglas Crimp (now the Fanny Knapp Allen Professor of Art History at the University of Rochester) included photographer Cindy Sherman among the emerging artists covered in his article “Pictures” in the influential art journal October. This article was a landmark in the contemporary art world’s embrace of photography as an artistic medium. In the ensuing years, young artists increasingly adopted photography as part of their artistic practice. Unfortunately, there has been an abiding separation between “contemporary photographers” and “contemporary artists” whose artistic practice is primarily or in part in the medium of photography. This artificial segregation has had a long-term adverse impact on exhibition programs and collection building at every one of the American museums with a leading photography collection, including George Eastman House. Our exhibition places works by contemporary artists in a broader context, illuminating art historical, aesthetic, and social issues and celebrating the diversity of inquiries into gender.

The first exhibition organized under my direction, The Gender Show represents a commitment by George Eastman House to exhibit and collect photographs by those in the contemporary art world. Photography is one of the most important media in contemporary art. Our world-class collection of photographs must include great examples of work by contemporary artists. The core exhibition of works from our permanent collection is curated by Senior Curator Alison Nordström and Assistant Curator Jessica Johnston. Additionally, Jessica chose the photographs kindly lent by Elaine Goldman. I had the pleasure of selecting the other contemporary artworks from outside of our collection. We hope that you enjoy the results of our collaboration.

More works from The Gender Show can be viewed on Artsy.

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Marilyn On My Mind

Posted by on Aug 03 2012 | History, Photography

This weekend marks the 50th Anniversary Memorial for Marilyn Monroe. Below is a note from our Communications and Visitor Engagement Intern, Zachary Overacker featuring images from our Philippe Halsman collection.

Marilyn Monroe has been an American icon for generations. It’s been 50 years since she has passed – on Aug. 5, 1962 — yet she’s still on magazine covers, the center of the hit NBC show Smash, and becoming an icon to a whole new generation, again.
When you think about it, it’s kind of crazy that someone who passed away several decades ago can still be as relevant as Marilyn Monroe is today. Perhaps it’s because she was the first sex symbol and one of the first huge movie stars. Or, maybe it’s her aura, or her story and how human she was that makes her so popular and so important. I assume it’s a combination of all of those.

Currently in the Eastman House exhibition "See: Untold Stories" is Philippe Halsman's MARILYN AT THE DRIVE-IN, from the portfolio HALSMAN/MARILYN, 1952, printed ca. 1981 © Philippe Halsman

The other day in a store check-out line I noticed that not only was Marilyn on a magazine cover but she was on the majority of the magazine covers. After years of not understanding the obsession with Marilyn, I am starting to finally get it. It’s not just that she was beautiful; she was a huge persona but also human and complicated. She could be this sex icon and at the same time have the innocence of the girl next door. She was really the total package.

MARILYN WITH BARBELLS by Philippe Halsman, from the portfolio HALSMAN/MARILYN, 1952, printed ca. 1981 © Philippe Halsman

It is through this TV show that I’ve developed my interest in (crush on) Marilyn. I remember in grade school girls had pictures of her in their locker or notebook and though I thought she was beautiful I didn’t fully understand the fascination. Now that I better know her story I understanding why she remains iconic … and real.

Marilyn had a very vibrant side to her, but she was also lonely and had a lot of problems, perhaps stemming from her childhood. As an adult Marilyn had problems with drugs, as well as affairs. And yet when watching her movies or staring at her glamorous portraits, you may never know the sad side.

At George Eastman House, you can see her realness in a display of Marilyn photographs by Phlippe Halsman, part of the exhibition See: Untold Stories (up through Sept. 23). Whether it’s the photo of her lying down on a bench lifting weights or just one of her messing around listening to music, each photo is intriguing. I can’t think of anyone else even close to as photogenic as she was. - Zachary Overacker

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