Lisa Oppenheim: Spine

Curated by Andria Hickey

January 27, 2017May 14, 2017

Lisa Oppenheim: Spine is the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States. Bringing together three bodies of work, the exhibition takes poetic inspiration from the notion of the spine and its relationship to the natural world, the body, and labor. 

Central to the exhibition is a series of early 20th century photographs by Lewis Hine that have been repurposed by the artist. A documentary photographer and sociologist, Hine is well-known for his photographs that document the conditions of immigrant and child labor in American mills and factories. Appropriated from the Library of Congress’ photographic archive, the images depict adolescent textile workers—primarily young women with physically misshapen backs—that Hine photographed to illustrate the damaging effects of textile manufacturing on the spine. With her singular approach to re-processing photography, Oppenheim has printed the images life-sized and bisected each image at the vertical points of the figure’s spine, creating an intimacy between the subject and the photograph itself. 

Oppenheim's repurposed Lewis Hine portraits are accompanied by a series of new jacquard loom woven textiles derived from jpegs of Pre-Colombian textiles found in the permanent collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Together these works explore the poetic relationship between labor, the evolution of industrial textile production, and analog to digital processes. Echoing the spine's strength and density, the exhibition is anchored by a series of new Landscape Portraits. In this body of work, Oppenheim makes photograms from paper-thin slices of wood, using the same arboreal species to frame the images. 

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog made in collaboration with independent writer and curator Karen Archey, to be launched in May 2017. Designed by Chad Kloepfler, the publication features contributions by Archey, exhibition curator Andria Hickey, art historian Maika Pollack, and poet Laura Solomon.  

Lisa Oppenheim (1975, New York, NY) lives and works in New York. She received a BA in art and semiotics from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1998 and an MFA in film and video from Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, in 2001. She attended the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program for studio art in 2003. In 2014, Oppenheim was the recipient the AIMIA|AGO Photography Prize from the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Shpilman International Photography Prize from the Israel Museum. Recently, she has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne (2015), Kunstverein in Hamburg (2014), Grazer Kunstverein (2014) and notable group exhibitions including Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography, The Getty Center, Los Angeles (2015), Photo-Poetics, Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle, Berlin and Guggenheim Museum, New York (2015), AIMIA|AGO Photography Prize Exhibition, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2014), and New Photography at The Museum of Modern Art (2013). Her work is held in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France, Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio and MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Milwaukee Art Museum, among others .  

Generous support for Lisa Oppenheim: Spine is provided by Harriet Warm and Dick Blum, with additional support from Hahn Loeser & Parks LLP, the Anselm Talalay Photography Endowment, and the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.
All 2017 exhibitions are funded by Leadership Circle gifts from an anonymous donor, Yuval Brisker, Joanne Cohen and Morris Wheeler, Margaret Cohen and Kevin Rahilly, Becky Dunn, Harriet Goldberg, Agnes Gund, Michelle Shan-Jeschelnig and Richard Jeschelnig, Donna and Stewart Kohl, Toby Devan Lewis, and Scott Mueller.
All MOCA Cleveland exhibitions are supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, the Cleveland Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, and the continuing support of the Museum’s Board of Directors, patrons, and members.