Beautiful Youth

Beautiful Youth

Beautiful Youth featured in “After Images, Art and Social Memory” at Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen, Germany curated by James Young, Guido Bouilboullé, Harald Welzer, and Peter Friese, 2004.

Beautiful Youth points toward the construction of the female within 20th century experience. Bringing together propaganda photographs from the Third Reich, wax casts of hands, and women's work aprons, the installation suggests a tension between the fascist model of the ideal female, and our familiarity and acceptance of these models within contemporary culture. Photographic images of women harvesting grain, feeding babies, setting tables, etc. are re-contextualized, recomposed, and re-framed. These images of "women's work" reveal not only how the Nazi ideal of womanhood was constructed, but also how our own images of female identity are produced.

"When we see, touch and walk amid these fragments, what is it exactly that we remember? The events from which these objects have been torn? Our experiences as memory tourists at the museum?... For Rothenberg, it is the imaginative leap we always make in memory that constitutes the act and art of remembrance."

—James Young, "After Images" exhibition catalogue
"On one of two large work tables are fragments of hands, sections of arms, and fingers. Objectified and ready for use, these 'parts' are cast in wax. Rothenberg signals the use of the body a site for production - industrial, economic, physical, and psychological. The complementary table, with large glassine fingerprint drawings, respond to this production with the traces of human presence, and of individual identity. The workers' aprons hanging in the installation similarly compress both historical and contemporary identity, and speak of absences and presences, both spectral and real that inhabit our lives."

—Jeffrey Skoller, New Art Examiner


Exhibition History:

Beautiful Youth, an installation developed during a Fellowship at Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College, Harvard University, 1991-92.  Exhibited in “Impossible Evidence: Contemporary Artists View The Holocaust,” curated by Jill Snyder, Freedman Gallery Albright College, 1994; “Telling Histories, installations by Ellen Rothenberg and Carrie Mae Weems,” curated by Mary Drach McInnes, 1999 at the Boston University Art Gallery.  A solo exhibition also titled “Beautiful Youth” was curated by Monique Meloche at Vedanta Gallery Chicago, 2000.