You can take Zoe Strauss off of the street, but it’s absolutely impossible to take the street out of Zoe Strauss. The Philly-based photographer, who has famously organized installations of her work underneath I-95 for the past 10 years, finds inspiration in the life-worn faces of Camden residents, the battered facades of inner-city Philadelphia buildings, or the hastily scrawled messages on graffiti-covered walls. The artist herself calls the work “an epic narrative about the beauty and struggle of everyday life.”
“Zoe Strauss: Ten Years” brings her work inside the walls of the Museum of Art for the first time, with nearly 150 prints and several work-in-progress slideshows. “Just as Zoe brought the formal structure of a museum or gallery installation to I-95 to speak to people about the seriousness of their own lives as visual art,” said curator Peter Barberie, “we hope that this installation will get the museum and the city talking to each other in new ways.”
One of those ways is through the 54 billboards throughout the city that will replace their usual marketing messages with Strauss’ photographs. The artist insisted on the total absence of advertising — even for her own exhibition — leaving the billboards as strange, out-of-context moments of gritty revelation for passersby.
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