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The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems, by Martha Rosler, 1974–75

Martha Rosler, Artist
The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems , 1974–75

45 black-and-white photographs and 3 black panels mounted on 24 black mat boards
Photographs, 8 x 10 in. (20.3 x 25.4 cm) each
Credit Line
Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell Innes & Nash. Installation view, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; image courtesy of the artist and Mitchell Innes & Nash

By addressing questions of how to represent dimensions of social class yet refusing the visual and verbal tropes of vagrancy and poverty, this work points to the tendency of documentary photography to generalize, criminalize, or victimize. By showing us a doorway that a homeless person may have adopted for shelter or an empty whiskey bottle paired with a series of vernacular terms related to alcoholism, Rosler highlights what she calls the "poverty of representation" offered by the "two inadequate descriptive systems" of the work's title.