Rachel Uffner Gallery is pleased to present a show of photographic portraits by gallery artist Sara Greenberger Rafferty. In this new series, as in her past work, Rafferty explores the subject of mid to late 20th century comedy, using it as an entry point to approach a set of broader thematic preoccupations. The portraits – selected and printed in CMYK ink on a desktop printer, then manually worked upon, digitally manipulated and reprinted as exposed photographs – depict signature comedic personalities and props, such as Bill Cosby, Goldie Hawn, Madeline Kahn, as well as a rubber chicken, a whoopee cushion, and Groucho glasses. Rafferty’s modest interventions into the images create a washed out palette – evoking the colorful but faded feel of watching 1970’s television in 1980’s reruns.
Paradoxically crisp at points where fluid has damaged the printed image, rather more pixilated at the points that have remained untouched, the portraits’ disfigurement evokes the injured, often female, body. Stains reminiscent of blood, saliva, pus, ejaculate and tears all interrupt a portrait’s meaning as it might have been understood in its original, commercial context. The gag chicken becomes a grimy, forgotten toy, or, even more ominously, road kill; comedic sidekick Vicki Lawrence appears to be weeping; a girlish Goldie Hawn’s lips are extended into a moist grimace; and even the whoopee cushion now evokes the usually repressed scatological. As in the show’s title, a heteronym, the works operate doubly: the body intervenes (“tears” into) just by being a body (shedding “tears”).
Hovering between photography, collage work, and watercolor, Rafferty’s portraits examine the hangdog undertones of the humorous and the hilarious overtones of the mournful; the presence of the gendered body in actions ranging from the quotidian to the extraordinary; and the ability of pop cultural artifacts to generate not just nostalgia, but a comment about the here and now.
Sara Greenberger Rafferty has exhibited solo projects at The Kitchen, New York, The Eli Marsh Gallery at Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts, PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, and Sandroni Rey, Los Angeles. She has participated in several group shows, including exhibitions at The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Oregon, Gagosian Gallery, New York, D’Amelio Terras, New York, and is currently exhibiting an outdoor sculpture with The Public Art Fund, New York. This January, she will be the Artist in Residence at Amherst College for the spring semester. She received her MFA from Columbia University, and lives and works in Brooklyn.