Lisa Oppenheim: Spine: MCA Denver
Lisa Oppenheim presented repurposed photographs from Lewis Hine, a photojournalist from the early twentieth century, along with photographs and textiles from two other series in Lisa Oppenheim: Spine. The images from Hine dwell on the conditions of immigrant and child labor in American mills and factories from that time. Oppenheim appropriated works by Hine from the Library of Congress’ photographic archive that depicts adolescent textile workers—primarily young women with physically misshapen backs. Hine originally documented these figures to illustrate the damaging effects of textile manufacturing on the spine. Oppenheim printed the images life-sized and bisected each image at the vertical points of the figure’s spine, effectively collapsing the subject and the photograph together.
The series Remnants and Jacquard Weave completed this survey. In Remnants, Oppenheim creates photographs from textile fragments the artist sourced from the same time period as Hine’s photographs. Jacquard Weave features textile works woven from the same vintage fragments. With each inversion, the colors reverse: the photograph is the color negative of the original textile, whose colors are again inverted in Jacquard loom compositions. With these two series, Oppenheim both borrowed and translated troubling issues of the past into timely metaphors around labor, production, and craft today.