Tension in the Gesture, Artist Aura Rosenberg

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Tension in the Gesture, Artist Aura Rosenberg

No doubt, this was a coincidence. I wanted to produce the kind of pictures of men that I thought were missing. CK wanted to sell them something. Notably, despite the escalating eroticization of marketing, the CK ads with Brooke Shields would never happen today. We’ve become much more sensitive about connecting sexuality to children.

Patricia: Your photograph in the Jew York show at Zach Feuer Gallery shows a young woman in an enclosed space, with a headwrap and Star of David patch on her jacket. Her posture and environment suggest the quarantined. I understand how that relates to Jewish history, but is there more going on that I am not reading? Is that your daughter, whom you've been photographing on and off for some time?

Aura: Yes, it is my daughter, Carmen, who inspired the series featured in my book Who am I? What am I? Where am I? These were photos in which I invited artists to work with children. The project derived from the kind of face painting that often happens at school fairs where children try out “pretend” identities.

Aura Rosenberg, Karin Schneider/Nic Guagnini/Carmen, 2002. Archival Inkjet Print, 24 x 16".

The photo at Feuer is part of this. I shot it with Nic Guagnini and Karin Schneider in the alley alongside their Harlem apartment on a cold, snowy night. Carmen was freezing, as was my camera. Nic and Karin bought old clothes and sewed on the hand-made star themselves. The bag Carmen is holding had belonged to Kenneth Anger who gave it to Karin. Nic and Karin are close to Carmen and know that she is the granddaughter of a German Jewish refugee and she has spent much time in Berlin as well. We shot in black and white and the reference is clearly the holocaust but there’s an uncanny residue of fashion photos like those by Helmut Newton, a refugee himself.

Aura Rosenberg, Quiet Rock, 2013. Acrylic Paint, Album Covers, mounted on Aluminum, 24" x 24", 2013

Patricia: You also have a painting, Quiet Rock, made from four album covers, in LAT. 41° 7' N., LONG. 72° 19' W, at Martos Gallery in East Marion. When I look at the record covers, sex comes up again. Between Chuck Berry, "The Animals" and "Joy Division," all of those words reference sexual spectrums and hidden senses. Each album cover has a sense of the hidden: Chuck Berry and his lust for teenage girls and underage pornography tapes, the Animals as makers of rock 'n' roll music (the very public release of repressed sexual energy) and then Joy Division's darker palate of desire.
Aura: Yes, it’s about the hidden in many ways.  I painted over the covers except where I had traced the words Quiet Rock. Through contrasting painted and unpainted surfaces, the words become faintly legible. This also alludes to a painting with the same words that I made when I was in my 20s—when albums weren’t yet artifacts. At that time I felt a strong connection between what I was trying to do as a visual artist and rock music.

I’m working on a new, related painting Quiet Riot. It comprises a collage of riot photographs that I painted over except for the words “Quiet Riot.” These riots are manifestations of unfulfilled desires – produced by managed democracies, where wishes are not being carried out. (By the way, it’s almost exclusively men in the riots) I'm making work for a show in LA at MJ Briggs/Anna Meliksetian Gallery that will be called “Scene/Obscene.” From photographs of porn scenarios, I’m isolating parts outside the bodies, enlarging and painting over them. Etymologically, the word “obscene” may derive from Greek theater where playwrights portrayed particularly strong emotions off stage. In terms of staging, they are literally, the obscene.

Patricia: Outside the gallery/museum context, some of your photographs of men were used by a Swedish AIDS-activist group for a safe-sex campaign. How did the Swedish Federation for Gay and Lesbian Rights find you?
Aura: The women from the Federation who contacted me had seen a portfolio of Headshots photographs in ETC, a Swedish magazine. The cover was an image of the performance artist Mike Smith with the headline “Orgasm!”—somewhat blunt, but amusing. The Swedish government was producing a safe sex campaign using traffic signals—red meant STOP, yellow, CAUTION and so on. The organization, headquartered in Malmo, wanted to show that safe sex does not preclude pleasure and chose my photographs for that. They launched a media campaign that used posters on buses, banners, postcards and T-shirts. It was great to see my own images mobilized this way.


Jew York is on view at New York's Zach Feuer Gallery until July 26, 2013.
Hair and Skin is on view at New York's Derek Eller Gallery, July 9th - August 15th.
LAT. 41° 7' N., LONG. 72° 19' W is on view at East Marion's Martos Gallery in NY,  July 13 - September 2.


(1) excerpted from an interview with the artist at: http://bombsite.com/issues/1000/articles/7034

Comments [1]

Grace Moon's picture

This is a great interview and

This is a great interview and I love how she talked about coming into the art world at a time when modernism was on its way out, and her resulting projections on nature. 

they are eerie and moving.

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