Whether they ripped the photograph, distressed the negative, or painted on the surface of the print, many photographers in the 1970s and 80s intentionally disrupted the illusion of reality in their work, emphasizing the fragility of representation. Others left the picture intact, yet used obvious studio-set environments, in addition to costume and make-up, to reveal the construction of their photographic subjects. In either case, whether tearing-down or building-up, these photographers focused on the artificial nature of image-making itself.
From Thomas Barrow’s fractured landscapes to Cindy Sherman’s theatrical singer, Unreal: Conceptual Photographs from the 1970s and 80s features approximately 17 photographs from VMFA’s collection to highlight a particularly self-reflexive moment in late 20th-century art. It is curated by Dr. Sarah Eckhardt, Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. Altria is the presenting sponsor.