b. 1964, Lilienthal, West Germany
Josephine Meckseper was born in 1964 in Lilienthal, West Germany. After graduate studies at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin (1986–90), she received an MFA from California Institute of the Arts, Valencia (1990–92). In her practice, which encompasses film, photography, and installation, Meckseper challenges conventional significations of familiar cultural imagery and the systems of circulation and display through which they acquire meaning. By conflating art objects with commodities, Meckseper works to reveal suppressed similarities between fashion, politics, and retail, thereby questioning the often arbitrary way in which value is created.
Rather than using it as a vehicle for aesthetic expression, Meckseper approaches her art as a conceptual exercise intended to challenge accepted truths. She explains, “I am … interested in making art as an experiment with an uncertain outcome. Neither specific formal techniques nor sending direct political messages are of much interest to me.”¹ In a characteristic group of works she began making around 2000, Meckseper takes disparate objects from the worlds of fashion and politics and arranges them alongside household goods in vitrines or on mirrored shelving as a means of exposing the convergence of consumerism and politics. By re-presenting common signifiers including advertisements, political symbols, everyday consumer goods, and other ephemera of Western culture within the context of an exhibition or an installation, she lends these otherwise commonplace products and images a critical framework while withholding her own commentary. A similar blending of high and low culture can be found in FAT, a tabloid-style magazine that Meckseper published from 1994 to 2000. Counter to its trashy appearance, FAT contained scholarly essays and art projects, creating a deliberate disconnect between form and content. In a series presented in 2013, Meckseper turned her attention to the connections between consumerism and high culture. These works, which combine the sleek look of high-end window displays with references to artists and architects such as Piet Mondrian, Constantin Brancusi, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, examine the formal and political relationships between contemporary product display and early twentieth-century modernism.
Meckseper was the subject of a retrospective at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Germany (2007), and has been the focus of solo exhibitions at such venues as the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich (2009); Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston (2009); and Ausstellungshalle Zeitgenössische Kunst Münster, Germany (2009); Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York (2013); and NAK Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, Aachen, Germany (2014). Her work has been featured in many group exhibitions worldwide, including the Lyon Biennial, France (2005); Media Burn, Tate Modern, London (2006); Whitney Biennial (2006, 2010); Moscow Biennial (2007); Prospect New Orleans (2008); Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates (2011), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2012); Palais des Beaux-Arts, Paris (2013); and The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014). In 2012, she was commissioned by the Art Production Fund to present Manhattan Oil Project, an outdoor kinetic installation with life-size oil pumps, in an empty lot near Times Square. Meckseper lives and works in New York.
1. Josephine Meckspecker, quoted in Flavin Judd, “Josephine Meckseper,” BOMB Magazine, December 2008, bombsite.com/issues/999/articles/3233.