Art Term

Pictures generation

The name pictures generation was given to a group of American artists who came of age in the early 1970s and who were known for their critical analysis of media culture

Cindy Sherman, ‘Untitled Film Still #27’ 1979, reprinted 1998
Cindy Sherman
Untitled Film Still #27 1979, reprinted 1998
Tate
© Cindy Sherman
Louise Lawler, ‘Etude pour La Lecture, 1923, This Drawing is for Sale, Paris’ 1985
Louise Lawler
Etude pour La Lecture, 1923, This Drawing is for Sale, Paris 1985
Tate
© Louise Lawler, courtesy of Metro Pictures, NY
Richard Prince The same man looking in different directions 1978

Inspired by philosophers such as Roland Barthes, who had questioned the very idea of originality and authenticity in his manifesto The Death of the Author, this loose-knit group of artists set out to make art that analysed their relationship with popular culture and the mass media.

They worked in photography, film, video and performance, creating art that used the same mechanisms of seduction and desire that played upon them. Cindy Sherman took photographs of herself dressed as B-movie heroines; Richard Prince deconstructed mass consumerism with his pictures of cowboys taken from adverts.

In 1977 an exhibition called Pictures Generation featuring many of these artists was held at the Artist’s Space in New York.