Watershed Art & Ecology presents an exhibition of new photographic collages by Justine Kurland.
This is the first exhibition of the large-scale works and the latest evolution of her ongoing project, SCUMB Manifesto.
In 1967 the radical feminist and writer Valerie Solanas sold copies of her newly authored SCUM Manifesto on the streets of New York’s Greenwich Village. Solanas didn’t mince words: the ambition of the Society for Cutting Up Men was to eliminate the male sex and work towards an all-female utopia. Seeking and picturing freedom is at the core of much of Kurland’s work and in SCUMB Manifesto [the Society for Cutting Up Men’s Books], liberation is found in the artistic act itself: Kurland began by purging her own cherished library of photography books authored by white men. Historical figures who have become the foundation of the history of photography and their contemporary male heirs have their pictures chopped up and reauthored by Kurland. The nature of collage—heterogeneous, pulled apart, shape shifting, cyborg, fantasy—has long made it a feminist strategy in life and in art. Kurland’s is a restorative ritual: each collage is a reclamation of history; a dismemberment of the patriarchy; and a gender inversion of the usual terms of possession.
Several of the large-scale collages are made from mulyiple copies of the same photobook Kurland obtained from friends in exchange for her own SCUMB Manifesto publication, making each work a group effort of undoing, dismantling, and reconfiguration. Circular forms appear and multiply across the collages, replacing the linear, terminating phallus or totem with a symbol of continuity, evolution, and rebirth. In three works from 2023 the razor blades Kurland uses to make the collages are incorporated back into them: they hang delicately from a string, radiate outward from a central axis, and jut out from a bullseye—the object, the target, that strikes back.
Justine Kurland is a New York City-based artist. Her most recent publications are SCUMB Manifesto (MACK, 2022); The Stick (TIS books, 2021); and Justine Kurland: Girl Pictures (Aperture, 2020). Recent exhibitions include Bonds of Love (with Moyra Davey), delpire & co, Paris, France (2023) and Bruce Kurland and Justine Kurland, Two Worlds: Illusion and Document, UB Art Galleries, Buffalo (2020).