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Rosler, Marthafree

American, 20th – 21st century, female.

Born 1943, in Brooklyn.

Photographer, video installation artist, performance artist.

Martha Rosler graduated with a BA from Brooklyn College in 1965. She gained her MFA from the University of California in San Diego in 1974. She won several grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and also won a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Alongside her artistic career Rosler taught at several higher education institutions, including the San Francisco Art Institute, the University of California, Rutgers University, New York University and the University of Pennsylvania. She became artist-in-residence at Simon Fraser University in 1979, which was followed by residencies at the San Francisco Art Institute, the California Insitute for the Arts, the University of Colorado, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Duke University, and the Maine College of Art, among others. She also writes art criticism.

Rosler is known to use unconventional ways of distributing her work, such as postcards, newspapers and through lecturing. In her work, she is concerned with issues such as civil rights and women's rights, as seen in Body Beautiful or Beauty Knows No Pain (1966-1972). This work was followed by one of her most important works, The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems (1974-1975), which makes reference to the work of the photographer Walker Evans and highlights issues of poverty and dysfunction in the urban environments of the USA. In her often politically charged work, she displays scepticism towards the advertising and media industries. Her work often reflects on recent historical events, such as in It Lingers... (1993) and Fascination with the (Game of the) Exploding (Historical) Hollow Leg (1985), both concerned with the nuclear arms race of the 1980s.

Group Exhibitions

1994, Women and Domesticity, ICA, Philadelphia

2002, Shopping: A Century of Art and Consumer Culture, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (also presented at Tate Liverpool)

2003, Venice Biennale

2004, Liverpool Biennale

2004, Taipei Biennale

2005, Covering the Real, Kunstmuseum, Basel (an exhibition examining the relationship between art and the press picture)

2006, Los Angeles 1955-1985, Birth of an Art Capital (Los Angeles 1955-1985, Naissance d'une Capitale Artistique), Centre Nationale d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris

2007, WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, Geffen Contemporary at Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (travelling exhibition)

2007, Skulptur Projekte Münster 07

2007, Bodypoliticx, Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam (an exhibition exploring the notions of pornography and censorship)

2008, Art Ambition (Ambition d'Art), Institut d'Art Contemporain, Villeurbanne, Lyon (an exhibition organised to celebrate the institute's 30th anniversary)

Solo Exhibitions

1997, Rights of Passage, Galerie Anne de Villepoix, Paris

1998, Kunsthalle, Berlin

1998-2000, Martha Rosler: Positions in the Life World, Birmingham, Vienna, Barcelona, Rotterdam and New York

1999, OOPS! Or, Nobody Loves a Hegemon, Galerie Christian Nagel, Cologne

2003, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London

2005, Martha Rosler: If Not Now, When?, Sprengel Museum, Hanover

2005, Martha Rosler: London Garage Sale, ICA, London

2007, Martha Rosler Library, Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art, Paris

2008, Martha Rosler: Location, Location, Location, Portikus, Frankfurt am Main

Museum and Gallery Holdings

Barcelona (MAC)

Berkeley (University of California)

Caen (FRAC Basse-Normandie): Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful (2004, photomontage, three photographs from the series)

Honolulu (University of Hawaii AG)

Houston (Contemporary Arts Mus.)

Karlsruhe (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie)

La Jolla (University of California, San Diego)

London (Victoria and Albert Mus.)

New York (MoMA)

New York (Whitney Mus. of American Art)

Oxford (MMA)

Paris (MNAM-CCI): Vital Statistics of a Citizen, Simply Obtained (1977, colour video)

Rivoli (Castello di Rivoli, MAC)

Vancouver (University of British Columbia)


  • Rosler, Martha: ‘Immigrating’ in LAICA Journal, Spring 1975.
  • Rosler, Martha: Artist's Statement, AgitProp Performance, Banff School of Fine Art, 1982.
  • Walls, Brian: If You Lived Here: The City in Art, Theory and Social Activism: A Project by Martha Rosler, New Press, New York, 1989.
  • Rosler, Martha: Rights of Passage, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1997.
  • Rosler, Martha: Post-Documentary, Fanny Knapp Allen Conference, University of Rochester, 1998.
  • Rosler, Martha: In the Place of the Public, Cantz, 1998.
  • De Zegher, Catherine (ed.): Martha Rosler: Positions in the Life World, Ikon, Generall and MIT Press, Birmingham, Vienna and Cambridge, 1998.
  • How Do We Know What Home Looks Like?, Royal College of Art, London, 2000.
  • Grosenick, Uta: Women Artists in the 20th and 21st Century, Taschen, Cologne, 2001.
  • Bringing It All Back Home, Centre National de la Photographie, Paris, 2001.
  • Schube, Inka (ed.): Martha Rosler: Passionate Signals, Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2005 (published to accompany an exhibition at the Sprengel Museum, Hanover).