Sarah Charlesworth: Doubleworld at the New Museum

Sarah Charlesworth *Doubleworld* at The New Museum, the Bowery, New York image ©MAIERMOUL
Sarah Charlesworth *Doubleworld* at The New Museum, the Bowery, New York image ©MAIERMOUL

I don’t think of myself as a photographer. I’ve engaged questions regarding photography’s role in culture for 12 years now, but it is an engagement with a problem rather than a medium.

The creative part of the work is just as much like painting or design as it is like photography. I’m not using a camera and it’s not based on recording a given work but in creating or structuring a given world. I use images drawn from the culture because I’m interested in each piece being an interface between my personal subjectivity and a given world. A kind of langue and parole situation where I am speaking of the world through things of the world but via my own particular arrangement, construction of the world.

It’s a portrait of a state of mind which is particularly my own. I see myself as casting my world back into the given world. It’s like a reformulation of language, a recreation of a new metaphor.

– Sarah Charlesworth, interview Betsy Sussler, Bomb Magazine

By the time Ms. Charlesworth died 23 years later — of an aneurysm at 66 — her 1990 summation wasn’t quite so accurate. Of all the Pictures artists, many of whom were women, few remained as staunchly loyal to photography as she. No one explored its history, formal possibilities and very mechanisms with such a determined, even obsessive, drive, nor did anyone make color so abstract and implacable.

A kind of investigatory passion for all aspects of photography suffuses “Sarah Charlesworth: Doubleworld,” the trim, handsome survey that glides through five galleries at the New Museum.

– Roberta Smith, review Doubleworld, The New York Times

Sarah Charlesworth *Doubleworld* at The New Museum, the Bowery, New York image ©MAIERMOUL
Sarah Charlesworth *Doubleworld* at The New Museum, the Bowery, New York image ©MAIERMOUL

In a 1980 interview in Cover Magazine with Betsy Sussler, Charlesworth put it like this: “One of the things that fascinated me was the tension inherent in the image, the contradiction between the desire for information that completes the ‘story’ and the experience of an incomplete moment. One knows there’s a human history which exists outside the image, and yet as photographs they are complete. They are static. They never fucking fall.”

– Vogue, Decoding Sarah Charlesworth

“I think of myself as a robber,” she told an interviewer. “I plunder and pillage on paper. . . . I possess these things and give them my own meaning.” In the New Museum’s concise and elegant exhibition “Sarah Charlesworth: Doubleworld,” the curators Massimiliano Gioni and Margot Norton wisely avoid trying to pin down anything as elusive as “meaning” in thirty-five years’ worth of work. Instead, they emphasize a through line of haunting ambiguity.

– Sarah Charlesworth, Optic Nerve, The New Yorker

Sarah Charlesworth *Doubleworld* at The New Museum, the Bowery, New York image ©MAIERMOUL
Sarah Charlesworth *Doubleworld* at The New Museum, the Bowery, New York image ©MAIERMOUL

In a career that spanned more than three decades, Sarah Charlesworth produced a body of work that questioned and expanded the limits of photography, drawing attention to the artifice of the camera and of photography while producing multilayered yet formally concise images that address the many philosophical, political, and personal dimensions of the act of looking.

– Whitney Museum, Biennial artists

 

Sarah Charlesworth *Doubleworld* at The New Museum, the Bowery, New York image ©MAIERMOUL
Sarah Charlesworth *Doubleworld* at The New Museum, the Bowery, New York image ©MAIERMOUL

At once seductive and didactic, they compete with painting in visual strength, wink at advertising and slyly raise questions about cultural and sexual stereotypes, personal symbolism and the role of pleasure and beauty — in both art and life — as perhaps particularly female pursuits.

– Roberta Smith, Sarah Charlesworth obituary, The New York Times