New Art Exhibition Turns the Lens on Mass Media

New Art Exhibition Turns the Lens on Mass Media

Artists dissect the 24-hour news cycle at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Artists dissect the 24-hour news cycle at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Text: Thomas Freeman

With the media in a tectonic shift, increasingly turning towards a frenzied and incessant digital news cycle, Marshall McLuhan’s famous claim that “the medium is the message” will be as discussed now as it was during the 1960s. Raising his theory that the form through which information travels directly influences its content, a new exhibition held at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles dissects Americans’ perennially thorny relationship with mass media.

Emphatically titled Breaking News: Turning the Lens on Mass Media, the exhibition features the work of 17 contemporary artists who have appropriated and mimicked imagery and text disseminated by the media, whether they be through evening news, magazines or newspapers. Some pieces address recent events such as the “War on Terror” while older works scrutinize the reporting of the Vietnam War.

“With the recent election still at the forefront of national and international news, it is timely to showcase how contemporary artists have, over recent decades, focused on mass media as a rich source of provocative subject matter that reveals its agendas even as it insists on its objectivity,” museum director Timothy Potts said in a statement. “In their need both to represent and to give meaning to their subjects, art and journalism have much in common, and can even feed off each other, as this exhibition demonstrates.”

For instance, photographer Donald Blumberg, in Television Political Mosaics, highlights the dizzying nature of information overload with his scattered collage of politicians speaking on evening broadcasts. In the jarring series House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, artist Martha Rosler sneaks photographs of far-away atrocities and suffering into editorials of lavish interiors from vintage Life magazines, evoking the inundation of grisly war imagery on American televisions.

Untitled, from the series Television Political Mosaics, 1968-1969,1968-1969. Donald Blumberg, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Donald R. and Grace Blumberg. © Donald Blumberg
Credits: Images courtesy of the Getty Museum.

UP NEXT

Vintage V: Christy Turlington by Inez & Vinoodh and Richard Phillips