In Conversation with Allison Zuckerman: Reworking Art History's Past to Empower Women Today
Likened to candy by tastemaking art collector Mera Rubell, Allison Zuckerman’s artworks are a pick n’ mix of old masters and Internet visuals. At the heart of Zuckerman’s work is the interplay of instant-gratification and female empowerment. Zuckerman plucks art history ingénues from their submissive Old Master backdrops and gives them a new storyline, one where they have agency and agenda. New York-based Zuckerman talks to Gallery Gurls about her process, influences, and using Instagram to circumvent traditional art world practice.
Isabella Howard: How would you describe your practice? What are the key themes you are exploring in your work?
Allison Zuckerman: Asking myself the question “how can painting, a traditionally slow and labored process, keep up in a time where instant-gratification is the expected norm?” has motivated my practice. I liken my process of art historical appropriation, transformation, and re-contextualization, to in-text citations, hip-hop sampling, and reposting. My work pulls from centuries of art history, and presents it on one plane – the canvas. This staging of imagery is a way of making sense of the overflow of information that I am faced with on a daily basis. Concurrent with my exploration of technological themes, I strive to retell art history through a feminist lens. This involves lifting a traditionally nude, submissive, and anonymous female form from a male artist, and re-presenting her as an individual. I transform her, to empower her through vulnerability and individuality, aiming to extricate her from the gaze of judgment.
You pull imagery from all across the art history canon, which artists would you say have most inspired your work and why?
I have been inspired by Picasso, in that I wanted to reclaim the women he immortalized through their grief and pain, and give them a different kind of life. I felt that I was freeing them.
“I have been inspired by Picasso, in that I wanted to reclaim the women he immortalized through their grief and pain, and give them a different kind of life. I felt that I was freeing them.”
You have cited Instagram as a valuable tool to promote your work. Was there a particular image/moment where you realized it could be a really powerful tool? How so?
When I moved to New York, I saw the potential of Instagram, as a democratic way of disseminating my imagery and ideas. I realized I could achieve much more reach by uploading new content daily to social media than by applying to shows/grants/residencies.
When discussing your use of old master imagery in an interview with artnet you said: “There’s no denying the contributions and significance of these artists; it’s about pointing out the inequalities that they have benefited from—unintentionally or intentionally." As a female artist, do you have any stories or experiences where you felt you were getting different treatment. Have you seen a positive change?
I think it is true that when a woman speaks directly and forcefully, she is considered pushy and her voice falls on deaf ears. I feel that my work is a more confident version of myself; I am able to articulate my points of view freely through the medium of creation. Positive change is happening; previously marginalized and disenfranchised voices are being heard and respected. I am excited and hopeful about the future.
What does 2019 have in store for you?
I am preparing for solo shows at Kravets Wehby Gallery, University Galleries in Gainesville, FL, and the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv.
“When I moved to New York, I saw the potential of Instagram, as a democratic way of disseminating my imagery and ideas. I realized I could achieve much more reach by uploading new content daily to social media than by applying to shows/grants/residencies.”
Follow Allison Zuckerman @allisonzuckerman