Featured image: work by Pawel Althamer

“We can see his bones underneath his flayed skin.”

03.05.2017 | Art , Blog | BY:

The ISelf Collection: Self Portrait as the Billy Goat is part of the Whitechapel Gallery’s program that displays rarely seen collections from around the world. The collection features twenty-five pieces from international artists, incorporating works by Cindy Sherman, Louise Bourgeouis and Tracey Emin, among many others. This is the first segment of the four-part show, which will explore the notion of self in terms of our identity as an individual, in relation to others, to society, and as part of the wider world. Through surrealist selfies and self-portraiture, the pieces in this chapter reveal how artists stage their own bodies or self-reflections, to examine how we build our sense of personal identity.

Among the works is Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Nets, part of an ongoing series of white paintings that explore the inner workings of her mind, as well as Prem Sahib’s Undetectable sculpture of an AIDS test, and Pawel Althamer’s self-portrait The Thinker, in which he is represented as a Billy Goat, and from which the collection took its name. Each piece is a self-portrait, exploring physical, psychological and imaginary dealings with our selves. We spoke to curator Emily Butler to find out more about the collection.

Why did you want to have this collection at the Whitechapel Gallery? 

This is the first public display of the ISelf Collection and it is part of our program of introducing intriguing and important collections to the public. The collection was established in 2009 by Maria and Malek Sukkar and it uses painting, sculpture and photography to explore the human condition. It looks at themes of birth, death, sexuality, love and pain and includes works by major international artists. We are also interested in revealing the collection’s wide geographic range, which includes works by artists from the Middle East and Latin America, and its strong focus on women and figuration.

Why was the collection named after the piece ‘Self-portrait as the Billy Goat’?

The first display of the ISelf Collection is named after one of the works in the show, a melancholic 2011 portrait of the artist Pawel Althamer in the guise of Auguste Rodin’s Thinker, with the additional twist that he is also representing himself as a flayed Billy Goat. The show itself focuses on self-portraiture, and the different ways that artists choose to represent themselves in various media. Here the artist chooses to show himself not as a perfect idealized thinking man, embodied by Rodin’s sculpture, but as an emotional individual, who feels sad as a scapegoat figure inspiring ridicule, or who feels weak, as we can see his bones underneath his flayed skin.

Linder © Whitechapel Gallery

Linder © Whitechapel Gallery

What themes unite the works in the collection?

As mentioned, the collection is interested in the human condition, or the self, hence its name ISelf, which plays on the existential dilemma that is inherent to human nature; the relation between the idea we have of ourselves as individuals ‘I’, and our relation to others ‘myself’. This is why we have curated the show in four chapters, looking at the how artists explore the complex subject of human identity in its different forms.

How are the artists’ bodies, or self-reflections, used to bring out these themes?

The artists in this first display are looking at our sense of ‘self’, as all the works are self-portraits. Essentially this show examines what the ‘self’ in ‘self-portrait’ means. The fourteen artists in the display have chosen different approaches: physical, psychological and imaginary, to represent themselves. Pawel Althamer has chosen a figurative approach, testing the limits of his body in order to explore a range of feelings about his identity and persona. Yayoi Kusama offers a very different way of representing her thoughts and feelings by creating an intricate painting of connecting circles or what she calls ‘Infinity Nets’, essentially an abstract representation of the landscape of her mind.

Identity is integral to the collection. In what different ways do the participants explore identity in their work?

One of the earliest works in the show is a series of photo strips by André Breton and his friends from the Surrealist group. These were taken in 1929 in one of the first Parisian photo booths, and are a great example of experimental instantaneous self-portraiture. Rather than choosing a straightforward pose, they look sideways or away from the camera, playing with different poses – smoking, thinking or laughing. Taken at a time when the group were formulating their second manifesto, these images show their common interests in chance and the unconscious, but also their different personalities, as they choose to depict themselves as multi-faceted individuals.

Tracy Emin © Whitechapel Gallery

Tracy Emin © Whitechapel Gallery

Are there any works in the collection that particularly stand out to you?

We chose You search but do not see (1981-2010) by Linder for the cover of the catalogue as it is such a striking image. It intrigues us as the artist has depicted herself with an alluring pearl necklace in a New Romantics outfit, but it is also incredibly disturbing as she appears to be almost suffocating in a plastic bag. Here Linder is playing with how women have been ‘captured’ and idealized throughout art history and in present day mass media. Incidentally, this work was produced in a booklet accompanying the release of the artists’ punk band Ludus’ cassette, whose songs examine the subjects of hiding, searching and finding, evoked in the work’s title. However, there are many more exciting works in the display, and more to discover in the upcoming three other chapters of the show.

Cindy Sherman © Whitechapel Gallery

Cindy Sherman © Whitechapel Gallery

ISelf Collection: Self-portrait as the Billy Goat is on show at the Whitechapel Gallery from 27 April until 20 August 2017.

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Hellen van Meene, Untitled (79), 2000

Terrains of the body

21.01.2017 | Art , Blog | BY:

The Whitechapel Gallery plays host to a seminal new exhibition about the female form, bringing together exhibits from the National Museum of Women in the Arts of seventeen artists. The exhibition depicts women in constructed and natural environments through a range of photography and film. Through this examination of the female body, audiences are invited to join in scrutinising and empathising with new narratives around women; seeing the flux and mysteries of  gender in new light.

The exhibition continues a conversation started by the late Franca Sozzani last year, that of subverting the idea of the gaze, and inviting a radical approach to the female perspective, both creator and subject. With work from artists including Marina Abramović, Rineke Dijkstra, Anna Gaskell, Nan Goldin, Charlotte Gyllenhammar, Justine Kurland, Nikki S. Lee and Hellen van Meene, audiences can again expect to be challenged and engaged – a must see exhibition in London this winter.

Marina Abramovic, The Hero, 2001

Marina Abramovic, The Hero, 2001.

Daniela Rossell, Medusa, 1999.

Daniela Rossell, Medusa, 1999.

Nikki S. Lee, The Hip Hop Project, 2001

Nikki S. Lee, The Hip Hop Project, 2001

Nan Goldin, Self-Portrait in Kimono with Brian, NYC, 1983.

Nan Goldin, Self-Portrait in Kimono with Brian, NYC, 1983.

Terrains of the Body:Photography from the National Museum of Women in the Arts runs 18 January – 16 April 2017 at the Whitechapel Gallery. 

 

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Guerrilla Girls

Guerrilla Girls Finally Get Their Own Show

11.08.2016 | Art | BY:

Founded in New York in 1985, the anonymous art collective – the Guerrilla Girls – are finally getting their own, dedicated show. Set to commence this October at London’s Whitechapel Gallery, it is a long-awaited spotlight on over three decades of important work they have done in highlighting the staggering inequalities that take place both historically – and currently – in the art world.

Though the group has seen members come and go over the years, one thing unifies: all participants take the names of dead women – Frida Khalo, Georgia O’Keeffe – and conceal their identities with gorilla masks when appearing in public.

Guerrilla Girls

‘Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into The Met. Museum?’, 2012, Courtesy of the Whitechapel Gallery

Speaking to The Guardian earlier this week, Iwona Blazwick, director of the Whitechapel Gallery reiterated the real need for such an exhibition to take place, and further demonstrated why the Guerrilla Girls are so vital. “I was just at the Kunstmuseum in Basel where they have just rehung the entire collection from 1900 to the present and I think there are five women.” She said. “Sadly it is still an issue.”

Guerrilla Girls

‘It’s Even Worse In Europe’, 1986, Courtesy of the Whitechapel Gallery

Entitled ‘Is It Even Worse In Europe?’, the new show will feature famous works such as the 1986 inspiration behind the aforementioned title, as well as ‘Do women have to be naked to get into the Met museum?’ and ‘Pop Quiz’. However, the large crux of the exhibition will be based on the results of 400 questionnaires that the Whitechapel Gallery have commissioned the group to send out to European museum directors, including their own.

Guerrilla Girls

‘Pop Quiz’, 2016, Courtesy of the Whitechapel Gallery

In a public statement, the Guerrilla Girls said: “With this project, we wanted to pose the question, ‘Are museums today presenting a diverse history of contemporary art or the history of money and power?’ Our research into this will be presented at Whitechapel Gallery this fall.”

Let’s see, shall we?

‘Guerrilla Girls: Is it even worse in Europe?’ will be co-curated by Nayia Yiakoumaki, and runs from 1 October 2016 – 5 March 2017; entry is free.

Whitechapelgallery.org

Main image: by Andrew Hindraker

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gillian-wearing-self-portrait-at-17-years-old-2003

Stranger Than Fiction

02.04.2012 | Art , Blog , Culture | BY:

The time of the YBAs feels like an eon ago. It’s a feeling galvanised by the simmering of retrospectives for artists who were part of the irreverent gang. Last year saw a retrospective of Tracey Emin’s work at the Hayward and for 2012 it will be hard to avoid Damien Hirst, once his show hits the Tate Modern this week.

Meanwhile at the Whitechapel, Gillian Wearing is the subject of a major retrospective of her work. Wearing as an artist will be forever tied to the golden years of the Nineties; winning as she did, the Turner Prize in 1997 as New Labour and a new focus on British culture came to the fore.

Her work also documented the change in how individuals engage with society. With its confessional quality, Wearing’s work has long negotiated the lines between public and private.

Influenced by Seventies documentaries, she has a history of taking private individuals and unveiling them as objects of interest. Her ability to persuade subjects to make private secrets public foreshadowed the reality TV generation, proving fact is every bit as beguiling as fiction.

Gillian Wearing is at the Whitechapel Gallery until 17 June 2012

whitechapelgallery.org

 

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youth

Youth Work

21.06.2011 | Art , Blog , Culture | BY:

As part of the Louis Vuitton Young Arts Project, the French fashion house has launched REcreative, an online community for the young, lean and art hungry. Careers advice for the digital age, it’s a gold mine of advice and an opportunity for creative minds to gain an insight into the lives of leading artists, curators and designers.

Interviews online already include Tracey Emin discussing her Hayward Gallery show, Love is What You Want and Dazed and Confused founder Jefferson Hack on how to establish your own magazine and voice.  REcreative users can also upload their own work and have it seen by those at the top of their creative tree. Developed by Louis Vuitton in collaboration with London’s leading art institutions: the Hayward Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts, the South London Gallery, Tate Britain and the Whitechapel Gallery, REcreative is set to put the wheels of a whole new generation on the right creative track. Spread the word.

recreativeuk.com

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