In a small gallery space on the Lower East Side called Rubber Factory, a significant group exhibition, Women in Colour, gathers some of contemporary photography’s heaviest hitters in a powerful presentation of experimental, conceptual, and innovative women photographers. Curated by Ellen Carey, the exhibition is part of her ongoing research into women photographers and color photography that posits, Anna Atkins (1799-1871), as both the first woman photographer and the first color photographer.
Carrie Mae Weems, Color Real and Imagined, 2014
Widely known contemporary photographers including Carrie Mae Weems, Cindy Sherman and Laurie Simmons are included in the exhibition; all of whom contribute work that interrogates aspects of female physicality. In contrast, abstract photographers, who employ chemicals and historical analog processes to create work that often involves chance, are equally represented.
Cindy Sherman, Untitled, 2010-2012
The extraordinary abstract work of Meghann Riepenhoff, oftentimes grounded in an innovative use of chemicals, cyanotypes and the natural environment, is on view in the form of a book. The book is a work in progress and will have a different page exposed to light each day of the exhibition, with the results yet to be determined. Liz Nielson’s one-of-kind images made from handmade negatives, which utilize multiple exposures to create fields of color in geometrical relationships within a single frame, vibrantly electrify one wall of the gallery space; while a set of small monitors sits on the floor featuring the conceptual work of artist Penelope Umbrico.
Mariah Robertson, 108, 2015
Carey’s research dives into history as well as new scientific research exploring a higher perceptual ability in women due to a DNA gene called tetrachromacy, which may also lend itself to a greater understanding of color. Exploration of higher frequencies of color blindness in men and ongoing debates about the inclusion of women in art history are also elements in Carey’s ideas, inquiries, and scholarship.
Elinor Carucci, Eye, 1996
Also included in the exhibition are Marion Belanger, Ellen Carey, Patty Carroll, Elinor Carucci, Susan Derges, Jan Groover, Whitney Hubbs, Amanda Means, and Moira McDonald. Carucci’s disturbing image of a woman’s single brown eye, printed large-scale, sits in the gallery’s front window. Delicate eyelashes and supple skin fill out the frame of the image, with the slightly indirect gaze of the eyeball drawing attention to the digitally manipulated aquamarine blue liquid-like area of the eye that normally appears white. The image creates a visceral reaction that after contemplation could reference any number of topics – the socio-cultural implications of blue eyes historically, superstitions about the evil eye, sadness, or female beauty to name a few.
Undoubtedly, this is an exhibition that will expand to larger venues with more women artists included and increased discussion around the past, present and future history of women in color photography.
Women in Colour is on view at Rubber Factory through September 27, 2017.