History Lesson — Martha Rosler (b. 1943)

Martha Rosler was born in Brooklyn and studied at Brooklyn College (B.A. 1965) and the University of California, San Diego, where she received an M.F.A. in 1974. She has worked in various media including video, photography, installation, performance, and photomontage.

In her 1975 video Semiotics of the Kitchen, Rosler reveals the suburban kitchen to be a war zone where routine food preparation masks the violent frustrations felt by women at being confined by the home.

During the Vietnam War, she produced Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful (1967-72), a series of photomontages assembled from the pages of Life magazine, where news stories featuring images of the dead and wounded shared column inches with glossy adverts for consumer products.

Cleaning The Drapes

Playboy

Beauty Rest

Red-Stripe Kitchen

In this example, Rosler shows two GIs rooting through an up-to-the-minute designer kitchen color-coordinated in blood red. More than a trenchant comment on America’s first “TV war,” Red Stripe Kitchen is also a harbinger of our own present moment, in which media images of domestic comfort and security no longer seem to keep the violence and chaos of the outside world at bay.

Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful, new series (2004) is a reworking of her earlier project, but now focused on the United States’ War in Iraq.

Photo-Op

Sadaam’s Palace

Cellular

In 2006 she received the Oskar Kokoschka Prize, Austria’s highest fine arts award.

Recently, Rosler loaned her personal library comprising over 7,000 titles for public use/viewing:

“In an act of incredible generosity, one of Americas most important living artists temporarily dispossessed herself of the vast majority of her personal library so that it could be made available for consultation. No borrowing was possible, but the eclectic ensemble of books on economics, political theory, war, colonialism, poetry, feminism, science fiction, art history, mystery novels, children’s books, dictionaries, maps and travel books, as well as photo albums, posters, postcards and newspaper clippings could be studied at will.”

Rosler teaches art at Rutgers University and the Städelschule in Frankfurt.

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