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b. 1966, New York
Rachel Harrison was born in 1966 in New York. She received a BA in fine art from Wesleyan University in 1989. During the 1990s, she developed an eclectic sculptural language in which abstract forms are juxtaposed with seemingly ignoble materials (jars of honey, aluminum cans) and peppered with pop-cultural references. The resulting works, which mix the seemingly incommensurate languages of Minimalism and Pop, are powerful both as three-dimensional structures and as assemblages of two-dimensional imagery. Her first solo show, at Arena Gallery in New York in 1996, was titled Should home windows or shutters be required to withstand a direct hit from an eight-foot-long two-by-four shot from a cannon at 34 miles an hour, without creating a hole big enough to let through a three-inch sphere? In it, the artist created an installation that resembled an absurdly decorated interior, replete with such heterogeneous materials as photographs of trash bags, globs of brightly colored papier mâché, and cans of peas. In other works—such as Unplugged, produced for the 2000 Whitney Biennial—Harrison utilizes sculpture as a display device to support photographs. She has frequently made reference to systems of belief—both religion and consumer culture—in her selection of images; for Perth Amboy (2001), for example, she took photographs of a New Jersey home where an image of the Virgin Mary had been spotted in condensation on a window. Her Posh Floored as Ali G Tackles Becks (2004), an installation at the Camden Arts Centre in London, consisted of videos and dynamic sculptures of found objects painted and set in plaster; here the composite readymade was converted into an abstract reference to a tabloid news story. Her recent photographic series Voyage of the Beagle (2007), named after Charles Darwin’s field journal, explores a wide gamut of figural representation ranging from mannequins to public sculptures, from taxidermy animals to 5000-year-old Corsican sculptures.
Harrison has had solo exhibitions at the Milwaukee Art Museum (2002), Bergen Kunsthall in Norway (2003), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2004), and Migros Museum in Zurich (2007), among other venues. She has also participated in numerous group shows, including Poverty Pop: The Aesthetics of Necessity at Exit Art in New York (1993), Installations/Projects at P.S. 1 in New York (1998), Walker Evans & Company at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2000), Brighton Photo Biennial in Brighton, England (2003), Carnegie International (2004), Berlin Biennale (2006), Dark at the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam (2006), Unmonumental at the New Museum in New York (2007), Whitney Biennial (2008), and Haunted: Contemporary Photography/Video/Performance (2010). She lives and works in New York.