“Revising History by Jennifer Greenburg” at jdc Fine Art

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“Revising History” at jdc Fine Art (through May 28, 2016) consists of midcentury photographs into which Chicago-based photographer Jennifer Greenburg seamlessly inserts herself, rendering telling narratives through a gamut of characters. Sadie Cohen was very upset that I got to model in the Hadassah fashion show. She didn’t speak to me for weeks! 2015 comprises a triptych of color photographs. To assume her character, Greenburg transformed herself through vintage costumes, classic red lips, and platinum blonde hair. Cindy Sherman’s photographs come to mind, but Greenburg’s work is arguably more nuanced, appearing as images from a family album-representative of middle-class women vying for a bit of glamour. The “Hadassah fashion show” features references to a Jewish charity event that existed at a time in American history when Jews were marginalized from mainstream organizations. The sardonic title supports the visual contrast between the vivid fashion model played by Greenburg and the society ladies who gaze at her with a mix of envy and admiration.

Greenburg’s style is further enhanced through black and white photographs. I wasn’t the thinnest, nor the prettiest, but I was the winner! 2015 presents Greenburg in a 1950s swimsuit among bathing beauty contestants, displaying an expression of sheer surprise. The bombshell image initially seems playful, but Greenburg alludes to a darker underside. The following images tap into the model’s or beauty queen’s fate. I’ve always preferred my own birthday 2013 represents Greenburg as a severe mother cornered at a kitchen table across from a girl wearing a starched dress facing her birthday cake. Greenburg maintains tight lips and heavy eyes with an ashtray spotted to her left. The image blatantly captures the potential disillusionment of motherhood. I have never been good at handling unwarranted attention 2015 showcases Greenburg amidst a cocktail party facing an older man who grips her with his mouth inches from her as she recoils, encapsulating a timeless power struggle. Two years later, I was drunk enough to sing at the St. Pat’s party. How embarrassing! 2014 shows Greenburg in a full length dress donning a Rita Hayworth hairstyle. Her closed eyes imply retreat, in spite of the atmosphere. Greenburg’s recent work, When they lifted me on to the piano, I had no choice but to oblige 2016 depicts alcohol induced revelry. “Revising History” appears to satirize midcentury middle-class women. Yet we can find a myriad of counterpart images in our visual culture today supporting mechanisms that continue to distract women from achieving real agency.

I wasn’t the thinnest, nor the prettiest, but I was the winner!
2015
Jennifer Greenburg
Archival pigment print
24″ x 30″
Photo: courtesy of the artist and jdc Fine Art