Snake Girl, from the seriesObjects of Desire 2, 1985
Sarah Charlesworth belongs to a group of conceptual photographers who came to prominence in the 1970s and 80s and are now known as the Pictures Generation. Charlesworth, along with compatriot artists Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Sherrie Levine, and Laurie Simmons, pioneered a genre of photography concerned not merely with the aesthetic potential of the medium but the currency and cogency of images, mass-produced and proliferated, within contemporary culture. Simply put, these artists became known (or rather, notorious) for photographs of photographs, their source material appropriated from advertising, brand packaging, newspapers and, in this case, ethnographic reportage. Stripped of their original context and intent, Charlesworth's Objects of Desire are plucked from the wares of niche marketers and armchair anthropologists and rebranded as icons, even altarpieces, of a new — or perhaps merely the next — multimedia age.