Sarah Charlesworth had a gift for paring a picture down to its essence.
Sarah Charlesworth (1947 – 2013) was an American conceptual artist and photographer. She is considered part of The Pictures Generation, a loose-knit group of artists working in New York in the late 1970s and early 1980s, all of whom were concerned with how images shape our everyday lives and society as a whole.
Charlesworth worked in photographic series, but stated in a 1990 interview that she had not really thought of herself as a photographer. She stated, rather, that she viewed her work as investigating questions about the world and her role in it, even though she had been investigating those questions through the medium of photography for the past twelve years.
Charlesworth made her strongest impact in the eighties, in several series that arranged cutout, blown-up photographs on monochrome backgrounds. Her work sometimes suggest rituals both sacred and sexual—an intricate web of free-floating associations that seems to connect things that may seem apparently unrelated.
Along with Glenn O’Brien, Betsy Sussler, Liza Bear, and Michael McClard, she co-founded BOMB magazine in 1981. Charlesworth also created the cover art for the very first edition of BOMB magazine.
In her “Objects of Desire” series (1983-1988), Cibachrome prints of appropriated images – typically a cutout picture of a single object, including a gold bowl and a statue of a Buddha – are photographed against bright, laminated monochrome backgrounds that match their lacquered frames.
In the series Renaissance Paintings and Renaissance Drawings (both 1991), Charlesworth combined imagery from disparate Italian Renaissance paintings and drawings to make new, often ironic paintings and drawings.
Charlesworth began to photograph actual objects only in the early 1990s. Her series The Academy of Secrets is Charlesworth’s attempt to convey her emotions through using abstracted images of objects that have symbolic associations. She illustrated how the way light falls on objects affects our perceptions of them as the subject of her own 2012 solo exhibition Available Light.
Charlesworth held various teaching positions at New York University, the School of Visual Arts,and Hartford University. Before her death she taught Master Critique in the MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Program and The School of Visual Arts.