Afterall Exhibition: 'Martha Rosler: The Bowery'

This Autumn, Afterall will present an exhibition of Martha Rosler’s The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems (1974-75) at the Lethaby Gallery, Central Saint Martins.

In The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems (1974–75) Martha Rosler bridged the concerns of art with those of political documentary. The work, a set of 24 black panels with 21 images of the Bowery, paired with 24 photos of texts and three blank spaces, embraces the photo-text experiments of the period and applies them to the social reality of New York’s Bowery district.

The images are of the open and shuttered stores, bank façades, doss houses, artists’ lofts, and debris of the Bowery, which was, at the time, an infamous haunt of alcoholics and vagrants. The accompanying photos of texts group together words associated with drunkenness in playful and poetic ways. By installing these panels together, Rosler questioned the role of representation in documentary photography, focusing instead on dichotomies of image and text, absence and emptiness, as well as on the political dimensions of both photography and habitation.

The exhibition of this work will be accompanied by archival material related to Martha Rosler: The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems, by Steve Edwards, a recent title in our One Work series.

Luminous Books will also be in the Lethaby Gallery for the duration of the exhibition selling a special selection of books – secondhand, rare and new – chosen in collaboration with Rosler.

‘If You Read Here... on Martha Rosler's Library’ by Elena Filipovic featured in issue 15 of Afterall journal. We’ve made it freely available for the duration of the exhibition. Read it here.

Afterall Exhibition: ‘Martha Rosler: The Bowery’
Tuesday 30 September – Saturday 25 October 2014

Lethaby Gallery
Central Saint Martins
University of the Arts London
Granary Building
1 Granary Square

Entrance to the exhibiton is free. Opening hours: Tuesday – Friday 12:00-18:00, Saturday 12.00-17.00. For more information email

Martha Rosler: The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems is part of the One Work series of books, each of which presents a single work of art considered in detail through a single text. Titles from our One Work and Exhibition Histories series will be available to purchase from Luminous Books as well as back issues of Afterall journal.

The exhibition is generously supported by Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

Image: Martha Rosler, The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems, 1974-75, detail. Courtesy the artist