Artists: Martine Gutierrez, Young Joon Kwak, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Felipe Meres, and Tori Wrånes
Exhibition title: Shapeshifters
Curated by: Tim Goossens
Venue: Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles, US
Date: June 4 – July 29, 2016
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artists and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles
Curated by Tim Goossens, Shapeshifters is an intergenerational exhibition that features the work of artists, activists, and musicians who use alter egos as tools for change and survival. The artists included in this exhibition have created personas in their visual or performative practices in order to discuss feminism and the making of difference beyond anthropocentric or gender politics. Shapeshifters focuses on contemporary production alongside a selection of influential historical works.
San Francisco-based artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson is celebrated as a pioneer for her use of new technologies, and her art has been described as an “advance warning system.” The issues she investigates—such as identity in a time of consumerism, privacy in an era of surveillance, and the relationship between real and virtual worlds—appeared in her art practice long before they became key topics in our society. The works in Shapeshifters originate from her 1960s Suicide Series, most of which have never before been exhibited. These landmark works present the artist’s ongoing line of inquiry into the hybrid of organism and machine and showcase early mediations that unfold over the years as a politically charged practice.
Biology and difference are also a key element in Fsision, a 2015 film by Brazilian-born, New Yorkbased Felipe Meres, in which he analyzes the life of microscopic planarians as a means to reconsider the boundaries of gender forms and sexualized matters in nature. Rehearsing the language of scientific objectivity, the film provides a colored take on the movements and gestures of hermaphroditic planarians – critters with an unusual ability to regenerate lost body parts and to divide themselves into differentiated entities. Filmed at a laboratory at the New School, Meres’ Fsision is a quiet and complex study of the production of difference and the notion of individuality as it forms in an alien territory that nevertheless closely resembles ours.
Brooklyn-based visual artist and musician Martine Gutierrez reveals two portraits from a forthcoming body of work entitled Indigenous Woman, a series of photographs presented within a magazine format. This catalog of traditional and modern textiles from Guatemala features traje that have been in her family for generations; some belonged to her grandmother, a Kekchí Mayan Indian, while others were collected by her parents in Guatemala during the 1970-90s. In addition to addressing concerns of identity and gender, this project calls attention to Gutierrez’s heritage as a biracial Latin American: “I am committed to glorifying the beauty and artistry of Guatemalan crafts and textiles, both preserving traditional representations of dress, and bringing them into the 21st century are crucial in sustaining Guatemala’s indigenous artisan communities. I am putting together this catalog not only for my ancestors, but for the underrepresented LGBTQ Latin community.” In her most recent video collaboration, titled Head 2 Toe, Gutierrez performs her pop star persona in an ongoing fictional narrative accompanied by original songs. Under her first name, Martine has become a published musician and producer, with original music featured by several fashion houses including Saint Laurent Paris, Dior, and Acne Studios.
Los Angeles-based Young Joon Kwak is the founder of Mutant Salon, a beauty salon and platform for collaborative performance that strives to foster connections between LGBTQ POC, women, and mutant communities, celebrating an ethos of transformation and critical togetherness in the act of self care. With Mutant Salon, Kwak creates immersive environments that frequently pop up at various venues throughout Los Angeles and beyond. On view at the gallery is one of Kwak’s musical beauty instruments used in the Salon, along with a selection of sculptures that explore the potential for selfreflection and bodily transmutation through hybrid forms and a variety of materials.
Norwegian artist Tori Wrånes uses obscure techniques of assemblage to create new dreamlike/surreal sculptures for this exhibition. Her sculptures often incorporate sound, and the artist uses her voice as a medium for creating expressionistic “troll language”—utterances that convey primal emotional truths meant to bypass the structural hierarchies of language. The troll represents the repressed id, a playful yet dangerous aspect of the psyche that is often oppressed by civilizing forces. For Wrånes, society’s distrust of the troll-figure stems from our fear of accepting the duality of human nature—the darkness as well as the light. On opening day, the artist will perform as her troll alter ego throughout the gallery space.
Shapeshifters is curated by New York-based Tim Goossens. He holds master’s degrees from the Sorbonne and the Ecole du Louvre in Paris, and began his career as an Assistant at MoMA and then as an Assistant Curator at MoMA PS1. He has worked with artists such as Joan Jonas, Jan Fabre, Yoko Ono, Patti Smith, Kenneth Anger, and Sam Moyer, and curated numerous international projects including Listen Up!, India’s first public sound-art exhibition; Till I Get It Right (Labor, Mexico City, 2015); Dark Paradise (Clocktower and Nara Roesler, Brazil, 2013); and Larger than Love (as part of Berlin Biennial 2012). In 2015, he was a curator for the Aurora Festival in Dallas, Texas. Goossens is currently a curator at Clocktower and a professor of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York. In fall 2016 he will curate This is the sound of ™ as part of the City Triennial in Belgium.
Lynn Hershman Leeson, Bowie/Hepburn, 1983
Acrylic on original collage, 8 x 6 inches, 11.25 x 9.5 inches framed
Felipe Meres, Fsision, 2015 (still from video)
HD Video, 24:18 minutes
Martine Gutierrez, Amalia, Kekchi, 2016, Maria, Cakchiquel, 2016
C-print mounted on Sintra, Edition 1 of 5, 54 x 36 inches
Martine Gutierrez, Head 2 Toe, 2015 (still from video)
HD video, color, sound, Edition 1 of 5, 6:50 minutes
Young Joon Kwak, Wig Heel Purse, 2016
Wig, steel, epoxy clay, resin, chain & leather strap, paint, Plexiglas, MDF, 36 x 18 x 31 inches
Young Joon Kwak, Brown Rainbow Eclipse, 2016
Disco ball, metal chain, resin, paint, rainbow lights, shadow, Dimensions variable
Tori Wrånes, Runner, 2016
Textile, wood, jogging shoes, Dimensions variable