The confrontational and influential work of Martha Rosler addresses political topics and concerns of everyday life, often through a woman’s perspective. Trained as a painter, Rosler soon discovered performance, film, photo-text, and installation. Through these media, she continuously expressed the zeitgeist of progressive social change. War and feminism, two ever-shifting issues, have occupied much of her work, intertwining in her Vietnam-era photomontages Bringing Home the War, which combine stylish domestic lifestyle imagery with shocking images of the War. Rosler is perhaps best known for her seminal video Semiotics of the Kitchen (1974-75), which tackles traditional ideas about the role of women through deadpan wit and a post-modern preoccupation with words, symbols, and gestures drawn from the kitchen’s lexicon.
As an artist and writer on culture, Martha Rosler continues to challenge viewers and the status quo. Rosler has had an active role in the Occupy Wall Street movement and this month opens her solo exhibition, Meta-Monumental Garage Sale, in MoMA’s second floor atrium. At the garage sale, Rosler will sell a motley assortment of items donated by the public, the museum staff, and the artist herself, haggling with visitors over prices. The result promises to transform a pristine and hallowed museum space into a social interaction with low-culture connotations, much like a visit to Brooklyn Flea. In addition to reflecting on consumerism, the garage sale seems to ask whether the heart and soul of such an important institution is for sale. Rosler’s use of the atrium couldn’t contrast more starkly with Marina Abramović’s stoic and pseudo-spiritual performance in 2010. This is brave new territory for MoMA, and it may be as much bizarre as bazaar.
WHERE TO SEE
Martha Rosler’s Meta-Monumental Garage Sale will run from November 17 through 30 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.