|Zoe Strauss. I 95 . (2008)|
Zoe Strauss: Ten Years
Philadelphia Museum of Art
January - March 2012
(Philadelphia Museum of Art. April 2011)
Zoe Strauss: Ten Years is a mid-career retrospective of the acclaimed photographer’s work and the first critical assessment of her ten-year project to exhibit her photographs annually in a space beneath a section of Interstate-95 (I-95) in South Philadelphia. Strauss’s subjects are broad but her primary focus is on working-class experience, including the most disenfranchised people and places. Her photographs offer a poignant, troubling portrait of contemporary America.
Strauss (American, born 1970) states that her ambition is “to create an epic narrative that reflects the beauty and struggle of everyday life.” Zoe Strauss: Ten Years will offer one version of that narrative, presenting approximately one hundred and fifty of her photographs, along with slideshows displaying more of her imagery, and installations on billboards throughout Philadelphia that will extend the exhibition beyond the Museum. Between 2001 and 2010, Strauss hosted yearly day-long exhibitions of her photographs under an elevated section of I-95. She affixed prints to columns in an area roughly the size of a football field, providing visitors with a map keyed to a list of photograph titles. Prints of the exhibited images were available for sale for five dollars, with Strauss stationed at a nearby table to sign them. These installations animated the site with art, commerce, and social interaction, transforming it into a vibrant public space. Zoe Strauss: Ten Years will examine how, for Strauss, the opposite settings of the abandoned urban zone under I-95 and the galleries of the Philadelphia Museum of Art complement each other. Her engagement with both places is deep and she highly values the Museum as a place for civic discourse, just as she strove to make the space under I-95 a place for social interaction.
Untrained as a photographer or artist, Strauss nevertheless founded the Philadelphia Public Art Project in 1995 with the objective of exhibiting art in nontraditional venues. She turned to the camera in 2000 as the most direct instrument to represent her chosen subjects. In 2006, Strauss participated in the Whitney Biennial. In 2008 she published her first book, America