Lisa Oppenheim: Spine: MOCA Cleveland
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.