The Gender Show explores how photographs have presented gender from 19th century to today
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The Gender Show explores how photographs have presented gender from 19th century to today
Nickolas Muray (American, b. Hungary, 1892–1965). Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Joan Crawford, ca. 1930. Gelatin silver print. George Eastman House. Gift of Mrs. Nickolas Muray. ©Nickolas Muray Archives

ROCHESTER, NY.- George Eastman House’s exhibition The Gender Show explores how photographs, from the mid-19th century to today, have portrayed gender — from archetypal to non-traditional to subversive representations — with a special emphasis on the performances that the act of photographing or being photographed can encourage or capture. The Gender Show, presenting over 200 works, draws primarily from the Eastman House collection, which spans more than 170 years, and also features contemporary art photographs and videos on loan from artists and private collectors. The exhibition is on view through October 13, 2013.

The Gender Show is the first major Eastman House exhibition organized under the direction of Dr. Bruce Barnes, who assumed the role of Ron and Donna Fielding Director last October. “This exhibition is an extraordinary survey of how photographers and their subjects have presented gender over the course of more than 150 years,” said Barnes. “George Eastman House is uniquely able to review the ever-changing cultural and social landscape through depictions of gender ranging from innocent assertion to elaborate masquerade.”

From the Eastman House collection are photographs by many of the biggest names in the history of the medium—including Julia Margaret Cameron, August Sander, Edward Steichen, Nickolas Muray, Brassaï, Robert Frank, Andy Warhol, Barbara Norfleet, Mary Ellen Mark, Cindy Sherman, and Chuck Samuels—as well as rarely seen vernacular photographs, in the form of cabinet cards depicting early vaudeville and music-hall stars. The exhibition also presents works by contemporary artists, including photographs by Janine Antoni, Rineke Dijkstra, Debbie Grossman, Catherine Opie, and Gillian Wearing, and videos by artists Jen DeNike, Kalup Linzy, and Martha Rosler.

“Since before Duchamp photographed Rrose Sélavy, his female alter-ego, artists have used photography to explore issues of identity, sex and gender,” said Barnes. “In recent decades, the artist’s identity and gender have been an increasingly prominent theme within photography. This exhibition offers a unique opportunity to see works by leading contemporary artists in the context of photographs from our world-class collection.”

Included in The Gender Show are tintypes and daguerreotypes by unknown artists; advertising images; self-portraits by artists, sometimes in disguise; and portraits of celebrities who in their time were a paragon of their own gender or of androgyny. Subjects include Sarah Bernhardt, Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Additional famous subjects presented in the show include Frida Kahlo, Auguste Rodin, Franklin Roosevelt with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, and Andy Warhol.

The Gender Show is curated by Dr. Alison Nordström, senior curator of photographs at Eastman House, and Jessica Johnston, assistant curator of photographs. Contemporary photographs and videos from outside the collection were selected by Barnes.

The Gender Show is included with museum admission.

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