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Gretchen Bender (American, Seaford, Delaware 1951–2005 New York)
Sheet: 56 x 72 cm (22 1/16 x 28 3/8 in.)
Gift of Joao Tovar, 2007
Not on view
Gretchen Bender is best remembered for her pioneering multimedia installations staged at venues such as New York's Kitchen Center for the Performing Arts in the 1980s, but she began her career as part of a politically engaged silkscreening collective. This work is an excellent example of her pointed cultural critique. Nuclear Couple plays on the double meaning of the term to devastating effect, adding a red rash signifying radiation poisoning to the smiling faces in an appropriated image of a "happy couple" reminiscent of 1950s TV situation-comedy characters. The image is a deceptively simple howl of protest that cleverly interweaves two aspects of Ronald Reagan's first term: renewed fears of a nuclear holocaust not felt since the Cold War and the reactionary reassertion of "family values" after a decade of advances in feminism and gay rights.
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