The photographs that form the exhibition depict corporate America between 1977-80, mostly in Los Angeles and the Mountain West. Unlike many of the other photographers of the 1970s who primarily photographed outdoors, Ressler brought the “New Topographics” aesthetic inside, to survey the environments that lay within. There, she found signifiers of the new American economy at every turn – symbols of class, gender and racial hierarchies. Her 35mm camera recorded the wall hangings, furniture styles and various totems of success that surround the rich and powerful. Visualized to emphasize cool geometric sterility, these photographs critique the underlying social structures enabling wealth and power.
Susan Ressler is a renowned artist, author, and educator who has been making social documentary photographs for more than forty years. She is a recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) fellowships, and is currently Professor Emerita, Purdue University. Ressler continues to make photographs that critique consumer culture and other socially relevant issues that shape the world, as we know it today.
In his in-depth contextual essay in Ressler’s book, award-winning author Mark Rice writes that Ressler’s images “provide a glimpse inside a rising economic order as they reveal the reception rooms and inner sancta of premier corporate office spaces. They were made at a pivotal point both in the postindustrial shifts of the American economy and in American photography, when a younger generation of photographers grappled with questions of aesthetics and epistemologies. By bringing these photos to audiences now, Ressler provides viewers new ways of understanding the worlds of photography and American corporate culture as they intersected in her lens during the decade that brought us ‘modern life.'”
Executive Order: Images of 1970s Corporate America