Susan Unterberg trains her camera on subjects that are as familiar as family members and nature, bringing to both a unique personal vision. While the artist typically organizes her work according to discrete photographic series, this exhibition combines selections from more than twenty years of such projects and unites them for the first time in one retrospective exhibition.
This survey begins with portraits of mothers and daughters (1985–86) and concludes with a series of enigmatic and painterly views of fish seen through the surface of water (2002–3). The ten series represented in these galleries are grouped thematically as family portraits and observations of nature. Both demonstrate the artist’s interest in psychological and perceptual relationships. Her earlier groups of sisters, couples, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and mothers and sons are fraught with a visible emotional tension that addresses the complexity of familial bonds.
Unterberg would later turn from portraits to the natural world, taking pictures of landscapes, horses, and fish. The charged family photographs give way to a delight in water, sunlight, and living creatures. Photographs of fish emerge as abstractions of light and color; pictures of ponds resemble Impressionist paintings; and white horses become a fantasy of shape and volume in motion. At times optically confusing, these images suggest relationships to nature that extend beyond the literal. In this new direction, Unterberg’s photographs become deeply poetic and metaphoric.
Susan Unterberg is a native New Yorker. She has exhibited extensively throughout the world, most notably at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the International Center of Photography, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum in New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.