“Sara Greenberger Rafferty: Gloves Off,” Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery’s newest exhibit, which opened on Nov. 2, encourages viewers to critically reflect upon and assess both the subtle and overt aggressions that plague American society and ourselves. The work features a series of photographs, Plexiglass or acetate “handmade photographs” and sculptures.
In her piece, “Jokes on You,” she features high fashion brands like Moschino and DKNY and jokes from comedienne Phyllis Diller’s “Gag File.” The 19-foot-long work is comprised of six Plexiglass panels that pair high fashion with comedy. Greenberger Rafferty displays a vintage 1980s Moschino “wife-beater” vest, a popular men’s shirt to compel viewers to question the origin of the shirt’s nickname.
Diller’s accompanying joke from “Gag File” reads: “I asked my neighbor if her bad-tempered husband was upset when she bought a new dress,” she said. “In a way, but then, I can always cover up the bullet hole with a scarf or a pin.”
It is hilariously absurd to think that a husband would shoot his wife for simply buying a new dress, but trying to make decisions without your husband’s approval was highly disfavored and punishable in American society back in the 60s.
An over six-foot-tall Plexiglas piece entitled “Y2K Moschino Dress,” delves into these domestic aggressions. In the piece, a slim-fitting, black, long-sleeved dress is affixed with 20 bright yellow words. Some of the words include “scared,” “fat,” “reserved,” “creative” and “spiritual.” Unchecked boxes lay to the left of the words representing how the pressures of society make women feel an endless sea of emotions.
Greenberger Rafferty also incorporates five manipulated rephotographs into the piece. She rephotographed 1980s images because she believes that they have been used as an “oppressive and subjective tool” in society.
“I use re-photography when I can,” Greenberger Rafferty said. “I try not to put images into the world if they already exist.”
All of the photos are cast in black and white, except one. In the one neutral-colored photograph, “Harold’s Clock,” a simple clock leans against a wall. A hole is punched through the middle of the clock not allowing it to have any arms to read the time.
“Her art acknowledges, shocks, and disrupts systems of oppression…” Andrew Ingall, an independent curator, said in his note in the exhibits gallery book. “Her work reveals the brutality and violence deeply woven into fashion, comedy, domestic life, and other areas of American popular culture.”
In “Gloves Off,” Greenberger Rafferty demands that viewers get uncomfortable and challenge societal norms, both on an individual and national scale.
The exhibit will be on display at Zuccaire Gallery through Dec. 17.