Photographs have helped shape people’s perceptions of current events since the late-nineteenth century. The ubiquity of newspapers, magazines, and televised news during the mid-twentieth century gave rise to the modern mass media culture, eventually spawning critical discourse from a variety of perspectives. The philosopher Marshall McLuhan’s writings during the 1960s, including the now-famous concept that “the medium is the message,” assert that the form in which information is as significant as the content, an insight that has influenced a generation of artists and critics. Featuring photographs and video made over the last forty years, Breaking News: Turning the Lens on Mass Media, on view December 20, 2016-April 30, 2017 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center explores how artists have responded to the media’s coverage of topics ranging from local stories to international politics and military conflict.
“The timeliness of this exhibition could not be greater. With the recent election still at the forefront of national and international news, it is timely to showcase how contemporary artists have, over recent decades, focused on mass media as a rich source of provocative subject matter that reveals its agendas even as it insists on its objectivity,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “In their need both to represent and to give meaning to their subjects, art and journalism have much in common, and can even feed off each other, as this exhibition demonstrates.”
The exhibition features the work of John Baldessari, Dara Birnbaum and Dan Graham, Donald Blumberg, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Sarah Charlesworth, Omer Fast, Robert Heinecken, Alfredo Jaar, Ron Jude, David Lamelas and Hildegarde Duane, Masao Mochizuki, Antoni Muntadas, Catherine Opie, and Martha Rosler.
The image shown here is part of Martha Rosler’s (b. 1943) series House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home (1967/2011), conceived and produced as a set of collages during the height of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. As the first major armed conflict to be broadcast on television, and as people witnessed atrocities in their own homes, it became known as the “living-room war.” Rosler collected issues of Life magazine and cut out pictures of the conflict and of sumptuous and stylish interiors. Images of these discordant subjects were often printed on adjacent pages, yet they represented distant and unrelated worlds. After assembling these disparate illustrations, with an emphasis on jarring juxtapositions between the suffering of Vietnamese citizens and the comforts of American homeowners, she circulated photocopied reproductions of the collages in underground newspapers, antiwar journals, and flyers. Several decades later, noticing an abundance of similar images in popular publications, Rosler revisited the original collages to make these prints.