Allison Zuckerman pillages Western art history, dismantling bodies and piecing together new ones that expose vulnerability and imperfection. Zuckerman’s figures are amalgams of body parts, clothing and background elements from artists [all male] throughout history, and Disney and other pop culture imagery. Paintings and sculptures made for Pirate and Muse evidence her embrace of the label “pirate,” as a plunderer of art history who brazenly steals from other artists.
A Picasso head, Lucas Cranach torso, Richard Prince foot, Cezanne fruit, Lichtenstein paint brushes and Disney bluebirds comingle to create a grotesque, unapologetic encapsulation of the absurdity with which female figures have been depicted throughout art history. But Zuckerman is not just looking backward. She is proposing a way forward that is more honest, more embracing of the plurality of women’s identities. She states that her work represents a “marginalized perspective that’s been cast aside—one that’s emotional, unsure and vulnerable yet powerful in the conviction that [they] belong in the world.”
Technology and social media figure prominently in Zuckerman’s work. She creates her compositions digitally, freely grabbing passages and body parts from online sources or snapshots taken at museums, then printing them on canvas and painting on the surface. The artist likens that process to the carefully curated identities people present on social media. Her figures are cobbled together from disparate sources in a performance of a person that when examined closely—like her cut-out sculptures—only exist in a flattened reality. Meanwhile, pixelated areas illustrate the arbitrariness of censorship in our society—background passages, a portion of an arm or an innocent bird appear to be pixelated at random, giving the impression that you’re waiting for the painting to fully resolve itself.
Allison Zuckerman: Pirate and Muse is organized by the Akron Art Museum and made possible with the generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, the Akron Community Foundation, Kenneth L. Calhoun Charitable Trust, KeyBank Trustee, Katie and Mark Smucker and Kravets Wehby Gallery.