Penelope Umbrico's portrait - image via

Penelope Umbrico

United States 1957


Penelope Umbrico
Penelope Umbrico
United States
May 25, 2016

Penelope Umbrico is a visual artist whose photo collages makes us wonder about the origin of each and every part of them. She is best known for appropriating various images on the internet and she uses the sites like Flickr and Craigslist in order to collect a variety of images which she then manipulates to construct larger images or installations. Her images offer a great commentary on the banality of consumer culture. The artist finds the inspiration for her work within the virtual space of marketing and social media – she is browsing through thousands of seductive images and ads so as to find the perfect matches for her ongoing projects.

 2015 gallery press page san
Penelope Umbrico – Tiles (Monograms), 2008

Appropriation of Contemporary Culture Photographs

Penelope Umbrico is an American photographer, originally from Philadelphia. She graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, and later on earned her MFA from the eminent School of Visual Arts in New York City. She is also a faculty member in the same school’s Department of Photography Video, and Related Media. In her work, she uses traditional photography along with appropriation and reproduction of found imagery, in order to explore the role of images in modern, digitalized culture. An immense number of pictures on the internet is, in a way, a collective archive of human lives, passions, and habits, a real portrait of our society. Umbrico’s works, through an insightful use of appropriation, creates a unique bridge between personal and collective expressions.

The artist uses photographs along with appropriation and reproduction of found imagery

2012 work new york arts gallery
Penelope Umbrico -136 Mini Film Cameras, 2012

Suns from Flickr Project

Umbrico’s pieces represent a reinterpretation of common consumer images because she rearranges them to subvert their meaning or transform their aesthetic value.While she’s browsing through an ocean of images found on Craigslist, EBay, and Flickr, Umbrico is looking for so-called decisive moments which are in fact cultural absurdities.She finds such absurdities in the pages of mail catalogs, various brochures and online marketing and photo sharing site. She is identifying and categorizing her images before incorporating them into her ideas. For example, her best-known ongoing project called Suns from Flickr started in 2006 and she has found more than 500,000 pictures of sunsets on the photo-sharing site Flickr. After choosing the images for her artwork, she took Kodak snapshot prints of them. For each image found in Suns from Flick, the title is, in fact, the number of hits Umbrico gets while searching the word sunset on Flickr. This means that even the titles of her images offer a comment on the ever increasing use of global photo network.

Suns from Flickr started in 2006 and the artist decided to edit more than 500,000 pictures of sunsets

 2015 museum arts new york press page san
Penelope Umbrico – Suns, 2006 – ongoing

Signal Stills and Mini Film Cameras

The main focus of Umbrico’s work is examining the subjects which are collectively photographed. In addition to her project Suns from Flickr, her series Signal Stills and Mini Film Cameras, from 2011 and 2012, are famous as well. Signals Still is a series of selected images of the TVs for sale on Craigslist. The artist was drawn to these TVs because they were turned on but they didn’t show any image, only signal. These TVs are eerie in the sense that they are present but mute – they simply exist, without telling any stories. Her other project, called 136 Mini Film Cameras, was taken took at the Smithsonian Museum during the artist’s Smithsonian Research Fellowship. The small cameras Umbrico photographed were obsolete, old-fashioned, boxed, and archived. She added the Photoshop Old Style filter to underline the nostalgic feelings these cameras evoke, especially when seen together in a large group. She also put these cameras in a vitrine, to emphasize their passive condition.

Signals Still is a series of images of the TVs for sale on Craigslist

Penelope Umbrico - Signals Still, 2011
Penelope Umbrico – Signals Still, 2011

Aftermath of Modernism

The consumer items Umbrico photographs represent a closer look inside the aftermath of Modernism. Initially, these products were the signs of efficiency, speed, and productivity, but they ended up bringing the dystopic results, such as technological breakdown, ecological disasters, but also social alienation. The artist, through her innovative use of photography, reminds us of many implications of consumerism. Her work is highly esteemed and it can be found in many public collections, such as the Guggenheim Museum, International Center of Photography and Metropolitan Museum of Art, to name a few.

Penelope Umbrico lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Featured image: Penelope Umbrico’s portrait – image via
All other images courtesy of the artist.

Year Exhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Penelope UmbricoCulver City, CA Solo
2016Penelope UmbricoMilwaukee Art Museum, WISolo
2016Silvery LightBruce Silverstein Gallery, NYSolo
2016Rotation 2015California Museum of Photography, Riverside, CAGroup
2016Look Inside: New Photography AcquisitionsHarry Ransom Center, Austin, TXGroup
2016Sunlight/StarlightLouisiana Art & Science Museum, LAGroup
2015Penelope UmbricoMuseum of Contemporary Photography, UC Riverside, CASolo
2015Penelope UmbricoToronto Contact Festival, Justine M. Barnicke Gallery, University of TorontoSolo
2015Shallow SunAldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CTSolo
2015Campus SurplusUsdan Gallery, Bennington College, VTGroup
2015Penelope UmbricoUniversity of Stellenbosch, South AfricaGroup
2015RANGEAperture Remix, Seoul, KoreaGroup
2014Mountains, Moving: Light Leaks, and Chemical BurnsMark Moore Gallery, Culver City, CASolo
2014Dallas BiennialOliver Francis Gallery, Dallas, TXSolo
2014Penelope UmbricoNeumeitser Bar-Am, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2014Penelope UmbricoXPO Gallery, Paris, FRGroup
2014Penelope UmbricoFlorida Atlantic University Galleries, FLGroup
2013Slide ShowLMAKprojects, New York, NYSolo
2013Darling FoundryLe Mois De La Photo, Montreal, CanadaSolo
2013Penelope UmbricoOlson Gallery, Bethel University, St Paul, MNSolo
2013Drone: The Automated ImageMontreal, CanadaGroup
2013Grand Central Terminal Centennial Celebration ExhibitionNew York, NYGroup
2012Aperture RemixNew York, NYGroup
2012Picture TakersVisual Arts Center of New JerseyGroup
2011Discovery Award ExhibitionRencontres d’Arles, FranceSolo
2011Social MediaPace Gallery, NYGroup
2011From Here OnCheroux, Arles, FranceGroup
2010LMAKprojectsNew York, NYSolo
2010Penelope UmbricoP/M Gallery, Toronto, OntarioSolo
2010MeerLier, BelgiumGroup
2010Penelope UmbricoCarpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, MAGroup
2009Penelope UmbricoSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CAGroup
2008In/formationRottunda Gallery, Brookyn, NYGroup
2007Penelope UmbricoBernard Toale Gallery, Boston, MASolo
2007The Leisure ClassBrisbane, AustraliaGroup
2005Penelope UmbricoP/M Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, CanadaSolo
2005Penelope UmbricoMichael Steinberg Fine Arts, Form Follows Dysfunction, Miami FLGroup
2005Art Basel Miami Beach ProjectsMiami, FLGroup
2004Penelope UmbricoBernard Toale Gallery, Boston, MASolo
2004Penelope UmbricoMassachusetts College of Art, Boston, MAGroup
2003Penelope UmbricoCEPA Gallery, Buffalo, NYGroup
2002Penelope UmbricoJulie Saul Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2002The Blurred ImageWinston Wachter Mayer Fine Art, NYGroup
2001Eccentric PhotographyEast Islip, NYGroup
2000Synecdoche: Multiple Image Art WorkDunedin Fine Art Center, FLGroup
1999A Fine and Private Place: Monuments & MemoryDenver Art Museum, Denver, COGroup
1997Object and Abstraction: Contemporary PhotographsThe Museum of Modern Art, NYGroup
1995Content and DiscontentThe Bruce Museum, ConnecticutGroup