GENERATION WEALTH by Lauren Greenfield presents 25 years of work by Greenfield, who uses photography, oral history, and film to examine the pervasive influence of money, status, and celebrity in America and abroad. The first major retrospective of Greenfield’s work, the exhibition features nearly 200 photographs, numerous first-person interviews, and documentary film footage, forming a thematic investigation of how the pursuit of wealth, and its material trappings and elusive promises of happiness, has evolved since the late 1990s. Weaving together stories about affluence, beauty, body image, competition, corruption, fantasy, and excess, Greenfield’s sweeping project questions the distance between value and commodity in a globalized consumerist culture.
Greenfield’s lushly colored photographs are densely packed with visual information. These images and the ways in which the sitters present themselves are alternately shocking, humorous, touchingly vulnerable, and, often, unnervingly brash, a quality that reveals the trust she builds with the people on the other side of her camera. Paired with candid interviews of the sitters, each picture and encounter behind it is an attempt to understand what motivates individuals in their pursuit of “the good life.” Taken as a broader social document, the accumulation and intersection of their stories, which are primarily American but also include perspectives from Ireland, Iceland, the United Arab Emirates, China, and Russia, explore the separation between inherent personal values and the priorities that are marketed to consumers en masse.
Generation Wealth chronicles a progressive distortion of the American Dream in the 21st century and questions its sustainability. By organizing 25 years of work into one complex narrative, Greenfield also seeks to better understand the system that ties together so many of our largest commercial industries—among them fashion, entertainment, real estate, and banking—together—and how their standards shape our behavior.