Rebecca Binns
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New York, political photomontage and the underground press
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This chapter explores Vaucher’s early commercial work in the UK and success as a freelance illustrator while living in New York (1977–79), where she created designs for mainstream magazines, such as the New York Times and Rolling Stone. This period also saw Vaucher begin to experiment with her own self-produced magazines and journals, which provided an outlet for her more radical output. Her first self-published journal, Pent-Up, engaged with sexual politics; using pin-ups to form a distinct critique of the subjugation of women in society. This provided a stark contrast to the male-dominated underground press publications of the 1960s, which had used pornographic content as unambiguously symbolic of sexual liberation. In this respect, Vaucher is shown to continue the free and independent ethos of her predecessors, while forming a critique more in sync with the changes heralded by the women’s movement. However, Vaucher’s unique take on feminism is shown to be distinct from its contemporaneous incarnation in key respects; notably through ascribing her pin-ups with agency. This chapter further situates Vaucher’s practice within a movement of artists inspired by radical politics that questioned cultural hegemony and intended art to function for social change. Parallels are drawn with contemporaries including Martha Rosler and Peter Kennard, who both also worked with photomontage and made incursions into public spaces. However, her anarchistic, as opposed to left-wing, perspective is shown to provide a singular critique of the era. The influence of Dada, notably John Heartfield and Hannah Hőch, is also explored.

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