Martha Rosler, The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems
1974-75, Series of 45 gelatin silver prints of text and images on 24 backing boards
The Adam Art Gallery was proud to present a one work exhibition of Martha Rosler’s The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems (1974-75). A seminal piece of photo-conceptual art and a reference point in traditions of socially-oriented creative practice, The Bowery offers a portrait of what was once New York City’s most archetypical skid-row. Pairing images of derelict storefronts and empty street corners with a descriptive poetics of drunkenness and vagrancy, Rosler’s photo-text installation refuses the direct representation of an implied human subject in favour of a layered interrogation of the adequacy of both visual and literary modes to the experience of social marginalisation. Nonetheless, the work insists upon the political resonance of the material settings of urban blight. Images and text are interspersed with occasional blank panels in the space of a photographic image, and it is this dialectic between concreteness and the incommensurable which lends The Bowery its enduring critical charge. Martha Rosler works in video, photography, text, installation, and performance, and as an essayist and social commentator. Her preoccupations centre on everyday life and the politics of the public sphere, often with an attention to women’s experience. The Adam Art Gallery hosted a series of public events to support this exhibition, including two fora on documentary practice co-sponsored by the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland. Martha Rosler participated in the inaugural Adam Art Gallery SkypeConversation series in early 2013, discussing politics, activism, and the digital commons in the context of her recent projects.