Susan Lipper: Grapevine

Jessica Dawson

Susan Lipper

Village Voice


A visual essay on the banality of brutality, Susan Lipper’s black-and-white suite at Higher Pictures delivers a punch right from its opening image: a deer strung up for display on a basketball hoop, broadcasting a kind of quotidian surrealism. The first standalone American presentation of Grapevine (1988–92) — for which Lipper immersed herself among the residents of rural Grapevine Branch, West Virginia — the show is an unusual riff on the documentary. Rather than claim authenticity, Lipper allowed her subjects to act out roles for her. This means it’s possible that the guy in the KKK hood was just playing around, or that the old fellow in the doorway doesn’t usually brandish a pistol. But these images are no mere punchlines: Lipper shot many of her subjects from a low vantage point that both monumentalizes and terrifies.