Page 1

T HAT

LOOKS

like


LOOKS like THAT December 6, 2018 – December 14, 2018 CCS Bard Galleries

Curated by Darla Migan Camila Montalvo Rachel Vera Steinberg as part of first-year practicum at CCS Bard.


like

Darla Migan Camila Montalvo Rachel Vera Steinberg

4

T H AT

L OOK S

Introduction


like

This exhibition of works from the Marieluise Hessel Collection considers a temporality in the reception of an image beyond a first impression. Comprised of photographs, drawing, painting, and sculpture, this exhibition shows domestic interiors, posed portraits, and plush or shiny keepsakes that plot notions of human identity. Bringing together these works opens up a moment for deeper engagement to reveal the complexities of each scenario, these works evade easy reception, interrupting our always moving and changing environments. This exhibition questions the act of looking by calling attention to the way we anticipate each image’s truth. The works expose us to ourselves by way of what we take to be of significance in the images. But in fact, by looking we find ourselves in relation to the constructions of our own truths beyond what is contained in the image. We are implicated, as passerby, as voyeur, and as active participant. The phrase ‘Looks like That’ is only declarative insofar as it is an answer to an implied question that only the viewer can ask themselves: Looks like what?

5

T H AT

L OOK S

Stereotypes work on us by encouraging snap judgments because they maintain a narrative of histories that we think we know. Paradoxically, the more we encounter a stereotypical image the less able we may be to discern nuance within it. In his book Location of Culture (1994), Homi Bhabha argues that in western colonial discourse, a system of representation is employed that is structurally similar to realism. If the works in this exhibition are visually grounded in realism, often invoking an intimate domestic or workplace moment, then it is precisely within this assumption of truth of representation that the stereotype thrives. Once we recognize the stereotype for what it is, a way of training our gaze through repeated encounter, we may begin to see the violence involved in our own projections.


Ida Applebroog Vera Mae 2005 Mixed media on gampi 72 ½ x 67 ½ inches Marieluise Hessel Collection Hessel Museum of Art Center for Curatorial Studies Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, New York


7


like

T H AT

L OOK S

Misidentifications / Dis-Identifications Darla Migan

8


like

Nikki S. Lee investigates the desire to assimilate into American culture but the artist also recognizes the lies that must be performed in order to easily pass as authentically American. In her practice, Lee resists merely passing to also seek out the cut of differences within so-called “American culture” by staging an ongoing negotiation between insiders and outsiders. Does Lee succeed in exposing the lies of what it means to become recognizable as an American? Her appropriation of class markers and the variously hyphenated cultures she enacts are troublesome for their bold assumption of access to her subjects. But here we see only a quick snapshot by a passerby or participant, the result of a durational chameleonic performance, sometimes lasting for months. The photographs that comprise her “Projects” series of which The Hispanic Project (1998) and The Yuppie Project (1998) are only two editions that openly reveal an always incomplete transition and translation of perceived identity. Other iterations include The Punk Project; The Ohio Project; The Lesbian Project; The Skater Project; and The Exotic Dancers Project (not shown). Here, Lee ambiguously plays herself openly staring directly at the camera, which in turn denies the artist’s successful assimilation into the stereotypical group while opening up the space to inquire about the authenticity of 9

T H AT

L OOK S

The artists Ida Applebroog, Pope.L, and Nikki S. Lee have all re-named themselves and in so doing each artist continues a tradition of opening a gulf between their own identities and an artistic practice which investigates identity. Applebroog’s eerie photocollage, titled Vera Mae presents an absurd abundance of softness, so much so that softness itself almost becomes the character. Dense, dough-like appendages congeal to render the figure’s gendered expression amorphous while simultaneously signifying bodily being. A readymade wig is shamelessly fastened into position at the top of the figure openly masquerading as a woman. The gaze into “her” eyes is undermined by the blurriness of a “face,” with which it is impossible to sustain eye contact. Instead, “she” denies us any recognition. That which ought to grant the truth of this image instead leaves us to question the appearance of soft curls, or that which may too easily symbolize femininity.


Nikki S. Lee, The Yuppie Project (12) 1998 Fujiflex print 22 x 28 7/8 inches Marieluise Hessel Collection Hessel Museum of Art Center for Curatorial Studies Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, New York

Nikki S. Lee, The Hispanic Project (20) 1998 Photograph 28 7/8 x 22 inches Marieluise Hessel Collection Hessel Museum of Art Center for Curatorial Studies Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, New York 10


like

In contrast, by making a game of signs through the unexpected juxtaposition of language and props, Pope.L’s photograph, Foraging (The Funk) (1995-2001) captures a performative presentation that distills stories to disrupt the stability of representations of blackness or whiteness. Pope.L’s practice trades in seemingly non-racialized whiteness to scramble meaning, and in effect indicate the arbitrariness of the arrangements that code racist representations of Blackness. Holding a spray bottle with the word “Funk,” wearing a white sheet of 8 ½ by 11 inch paper across his chest scrawled with the words “Mr. Mau-Mau,” and donning white bunny ears on his head, Pope.L shows whiteness failing to capture his Blackness with a subversive nod to cuteness and cleanliness. By casting himself as an ambiguous character using these white props, interrupted by a blood-red toilet-brush cleaner, whiteness is repurposed insofar as racialized discourse already maps the artist’s non-White body onto a fixed identity. Especially as Applebroog, Pope.L, and Lee became assimilated into art world discourse arranging them as Woman, Foreigner, or Black artist, these works work because of the ways that it becomes much less interesting to interpret them through the question of where the “real” identity of the artist is located. The juxtaposition of these works encourage us to consider which bodies are historically permitted to either enjoy the pleasures of or take on the risks of disidentification. We might notice resonances with these issues of identity and disidentification1 portrayed in the filmic adaptation of an undercover police case led by Detective Ron Stallworth and portrayed by director Spike Lee in the recent film BlackKkKlansman (2018). As the first Black police officer in the Colorado 1 – Jose Esteban Muñoz, ““The White to be Angry”: Vaginal Davis’s Terrorist Drag,” Queer Transexions of Race, Nation, and Gender, No. 52/53 (Autumn - Winter, 1997): pp. 80-103. 11

T H AT

L OOK S

the “real” participants. In looking at both the Yuppie Project and the Hispanic Project together we experience Lee’s anxiety, her feelings of always being at an awkward remove from the very scenes that she is responsible for initiating.        


William Pope.L Foraging (The Funk) 1995-2001 Archival Iris Print 47 x 35 inches Marieluise Hessel Collection Hessel Museum of Art Center for Curatorial Studies Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, New York 12


like

Comparing Nikki S. Lee and Pope L.’s practices in their capacities and failures to overcome stereotypical notions of identity brings to mind the heated debates between and across Feminist theorists and Black theorists in the analyses of Rachel Dolezal’s “choice” to represent herself as a Black woman. With different although overlapping histories of discrimination debates have become focused on ways that differently positioned women, ought (or ought not to) inform contemporary discourses on historically-attuned, identity-based recognition, and struggles for liberation. How do we learn to tell different stories that may change the rules of the fraught games of self-identification, which arise in relation to the representation of others? What does it mean to play along, to pretend not to see, or to resist representations of identities that claim to tell us the “whole” story?

13

T H AT

L OOK S

Springs Police Department, Stallworth works as an undercover detective to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. Here, the dramatic possibility for this film is directly indexed to the threat of anti-Black racist violence.


Tracey Baran Untitled (Dad) 1997 C-print 30 3/4 x 40 3/8 inches Marieluise Hessel Collection Hessel Museum of Art Center for Curatorial Studies Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, New York


like

Darla Migan

16

T H AT

L OOK S

Family Ties


Tracy Baran’s Untitled (Dad) (1997) depicts an intimately exposed midsection of what we assume to be her father. The photograph allows us to slip into the late artist’s own vernacular to investigate the gaps between idea of the artist as inherently cosmopolitan and Baran’s own upbringing far from New York City. Baran offers composed revelations titled to indicate a real reference to what is on view, using language and image to organize an opening onto her relationships with family members who appear in the photographs. In Untitled (Dad), Baran works both within and outside the discourse of portraiture to make a visual cutout of the torso of this body. The work exposes how our family albums, whether they exist or not, insist on their anonymity even when we think we already understand the ways in which these unfolding relations continue to shape who we are, how we see ourselves, and how others see us in the world. Portrayed as a character for Untitled (Dad) (1997), the partiality of this portrait works itself up as both a confession and a question: If this is how I see my Dad, then what is your relationship like with your Dad? In contrast with Tracy Baran’s composed candidness, Mark Bradford’s Norton Christmas Card (2001) is an actual Christmas card showing three members of the Norton family, and sent to the Marieluise Hessel Collection. The card escapes the fate of mere snapshot under the conditions of being a commissioned and collected work. Troubling the genre of a Christmas card, this work opens the question of what relationship Bradford’s collectors have to the Marieluise Hessel Collection and hints at the importance of generational networks. The Nortons’ presence in this collection puts forth the question of what makes a family into an art collecting family today. What are the conditions that make not only art or artists become recognizable, but also what are the conditions that make new families recognizable as patrons of the arts? Eric Fischl’s Help (1980), an unofficial epic, and the only painting in this exhibition, sweepingly depicts an intimate moment of a dark-hued woman, understood as the caretaker of a cherub-esque child. Captured 17

T H AT

L OOK S

like


Bradford, Mark Norton Christmas Card 2001 color photograph 5 x 7 inches Marieluise Hessel Collection Hessel Museum of Art Center for Curatorial Studies Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, New York

18


in oil paint, this obstinately weird moment cedes any joy of a bath-time scene to the twisted logic of the private sphere of colonial modernity. The nauseatingly green toilet in the lower right corner heightens the tension in the trope of the domestic worker with a child. Fischl’s Help binds the knot between labor, wealth, and family in the intimacy between a child and caretaker. The painting refuses to shy away from the unflinching knowledge that the caretaker is an employee of her charge’s family although she is also entrusted with such delicate care. A similar tension between labor and intimacy appears in Miguel Calderón’s photograph Employee of the Month #5 (1998), as it captures dynamics within the “work-family” through mockery of the motif of the Holy family. As retail store employees continue selling their labor with the ever-increasing expansion of consumer markets, bonds formed on the job become important to making it through the monotony of day. Thus, the work-family is born—my fellow employees are who I goof around with on break and who I laugh with over the absurdity of a situation that actually offers us a “reward” in the form of becoming Employee-of-the-Month. Labor and the structures of family bind stubbornly, with arrangements continually forming to organize both survival and intimacy, care and exploitation. Daniela Rossell’s photographs are intended to capture her subjects’ insistence on opulence, putting their adornment and high price tag accoutrement on display. In Untitled (1999) Rossell offers a direct view onto how wealthy women value themselves and their capacity to collect: furniture, paintings, taxidermied animals, clothing, and even servants-all while enjoying an enviable life of fitness and leisure. Nonetheless, the character of the wealthy woman who desires to see herself frozen with her riches quickly becomes a grotesque and conspicuous unraveling of that fantasy. Indeed, she does not have it all because she requires our recognition despite her obvious prestige.

19

T H AT

L OOK S

like


Eric Fischl Help 1980 Oil on canvas 60 x 96 inches Marieluise Hessel Collection Hessel Museum of Art Center for Curatorial Studies Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, New York

Miguel Calderรณn, Employee of the Month #5 1998 C-print 79 1/4 x 50 inches Marieluise Hessel Collection Hessel Museum of Art Center for Curatorial Studies Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, New York 20


Daniela Rossell Untitled 1999 C-Print 60 x 76 inches Marieluise Hessel Collection Hessel Museum of Art Center for Curatorial Studies Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, New York

21


Rebecca Morgan I Love New York 2009 Graphite on paper 84 x 60 inches Marieluise Hessel Collection Hessel Museum of Art Center for Curatorial Studies Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, New York


like

T H AT

L OOK S

Memento Mori Darla Migan

24


Stereotypes spread through the mutability of ideas situated in material form, as symbols, or as simply rumors overheard. Symbols often carry stories in which data is reconfigured or deleted in order to make the world into a simpler place. Rebecca Morgan’s I Love New York (2009) is a larger than life-sized drawing depicting a woman nude below the waist and wearing the familiar souvenir T-shirt. Through this rendering, we are asked to de-localize or extend our imaginations to make sense of the figure’s relation to the scale of the drawing, the foliage in the background, and the deadpan expression on the figure’s face. In this curious affront to the male gaze, Morgan also opens interpretations of the assumed NYC tourist. What are her stories? Where has she been? What has she seen which may or may not be related to New York City or how she came to be wearing that T-shirt? The mutability of the logo, also rendered in graphite, shows up here as a familiar but empty placeholder for a relationship, which may connect us to the figure via our own relationships with the logo. Whose memories are left out of sight, misunderstood, or devalued when we imagine others beyond the city limits? Since the late 1990s, Lucas Blalock is one of many artists who has been conducting an ongoing study of the reception of the photographic image in the age of its digital reproducibility. Bad Situation 1 (2013) arrives from a series of the same pink, floppy-eared stuffed animal forced into cranky and mischievous positions between a padded surface and shrink wrap. We see a flash of colors that seem not yet assimilated into a familiar digital look. Yet, this situation doesn’t rely on our expectation for crisper, cleaner images. Instead, Blalock’s own haptic anxiety finds its way to the surface. The photographer’s plush subject seems to express a desire for connection—that touch not be forgotten. Ironically though, this longing is only conveyed by way of Blalock’s signature handling of the photograph’s digital post-production quality. The work keeps us close to the surface of the image but meaning is undermined in our attempts to answer the question: What am I looking at? Thus, Blalock attempts to bridge the divide between what is seen and how what is seen can both obscure and invite. The manipulated photograph trades in the 25

T H AT

L OOK S

like


Blalock, Lucas Bad Situation 1 2013 Inkjet print on paper 48 1/2 x 61 1/4 inches Marieluise Hessel Collection Hessel Museum of Art Center for Curatorial Studies Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, New York

Wilson, Fred Hit 1995 Color photograph 31 x 25 inches Marieluise Hessel Collection Hessel Museum of Art Center for Curatorial Studies Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, New York 26


like

If Blalock’s photographs capture the anxiety of losing touch in the early part of the twenty-first century, then Fred Wilson’s 1996 exhibition “Collectibles” at Metro Pictures gallery addressed a kind of anxiety from Culture Wars 1.0 over the ease with which figurines like the one photographed in Hit (1995) are often handled. By calling attention to the often-silent presence of these ‘collectibles,’ which include mammies and pickaninnies, Wilson documents evidence of a racism marked out by the ongoing market circulation of these items. Can Wilson’s photographic gesture exceed “[T]his detritus of the banal evil of our culture [that] reinvents itself in the transformation from souvenir to collectible, from unexamined racist attitudes to perverse nostalgia.”?1 Wilson examines what it means to think about the way stereotypes of identity are made manifest while also attempting to make a photograph that exceeds what is signified by the object photographed. Tunga’s Pente (Scalp) (1984-1987) ties together a room ripe with the evidence of colonial era contact between Europe and the Americas. Pente (Scalp) is a sculpture made of brass and wire as a stand-in for hair, caught in the middle by the teeth of a gigantic comb. But the title of this absurdly overgrown toupee helps us to glimpse the unassailable horrors conditioning the circumstances under which indigenous peoples become mercenaries. This history counters the belief spread by colonists’ rumors that indigenous peoples were inherent savages and the practice of scalping proof of this irrefutable truth. Thus, through its shiny exterior, Pente (Scalp) attempts to renegotiate an easily misremembered history of resistance and survival across the Americas, a struggle that continues today.

1 – Metro Pictures, “Fred Wilson, Collectibles, December 2, 1995 – January 6, 1996,” Press Release. Accessed November 14, 2018, https://www.metropictures.com/exhibitions/ fred-wilson3/press-release. 27

T H AT

L OOK S

hope for a digital translation of other human practices such as the use of relics in religious prayers or childhood incantations--both intended to ward off bad situations.


T H AT

Tunga Pente (Scalp) 1984-1997 Copper and brass 5 x 157 ½ x 78 11/16 inches Marieluise Hessel Collection Hessel Museum of Art Center for Curatorial Studies Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, New York

28


like

T H AT

L OOK S

Looks Like What?

30


If appearances are shaped in the act of looking, then they also teach us about our own identities by ways of learning how to look. This curatorial investigation into the Hessel Collection reveals that who we know ourselves to be is actually made by how we see ourselves reflected, not ex nihilo, but in relation to others. We are continually caught in representations narrated through social and historical formations that interact with one another. These tales unfold in ways that simultaneously provide stability through representation, while also demanding constant revision. The stereotype is one such tale that also works as a tool, or an apparatus, for maintaining the stability of identities. Among these works selected from the collection spanning a period of thirty years, from the culture wars of the 1990s to the culture wars of today, we begin to see the violence of our own projections onto others. Looks Like That investigates different valences of looking that feed stereotypes: both how things appear (a look), and the action of looking (to look).

31

T H AT

L OOK S

like


Profile for María Camila Montalvo Senior

"Looks Like That" exhibition - curatorial text  

If appearances are shaped in the act of looking, then they also teach us about our own identities by ways of learning how to look. This cura...

"Looks Like That" exhibition - curatorial text  

If appearances are shaped in the act of looking, then they also teach us about our own identities by ways of learning how to look. This cura...

Advertisement

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded