Nathalie Karg is pleased to present Mirror, Mirror, a group exhibition featuring new and recent works of self-portraiture by Whitney Hubbs, Tommy Kha, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, and Ilona Szwarc. Self-presentation as self-creation has become a hallmark of the social media age, perhaps most evidenced by the ubiquitous “selfie.” To be seen, literally and figuratively (“I see you”), is not only confirmation of one’s existence and value, but also a necessary performance of self that must be staged again and again. Hubbs, Kha, Sepuya, and Szwarc harness this cultural phenomenon by exposing, exploiting, and subverting the selfie’s narcissistic gaze.
Courting a lo-fi aesthetic, Hubbs’ recent self-portraits are awash with bright frontal lighting, allowing the artist to simultaneously perform a kind of vanishing act, all while demanding our attention as she hides in plain sight. In obscuring herself, Hubbs seeks respite from the betrayal of living in an aging female body where the specter of one’s waning fuckability looms large.
Through tableaux that merge self-portraiture and still life, Kha maps the paradoxical nature of diasporic identity, creating intimate images that evoke the artifice of assimilation. Inserting cardboard cut-outs and printed masks of himself into the landscapes and domiciles of his past and present, he yokes together belonging and alienation with an awkward grace.
The presence of cameras, mirrors, cell phones, and the darkroom itself feature prominently in Sepuya’s erotic portraits of friends and lovers. The resulting images, wherein the artist’s own naked body is often literally entangled with that of his subject, suggest a conflation of self with other. There are no thirst traps here; just bodies — vulnerable, real, beautiful, and flawed.
Revealed through seemingly otherworldly compositions, Szwarc escapes the treachery of female embodiment by more surrealist means, employing surrogate look-a-likes who she transforms into beast-like characters and refracts through shape-shifting mirrors. Her subjects connote a state of reverse transformation, showing us a self that exists between the realm of human and beast, civility and abandon.
Together, these artists conjure their perceived identity as a slippery experience as unreliable as the photographic medium that would try and fasten it. The exhibition’s title,
Mirror, Mirror, naturally infers the question, who is the fairest of them all? For Hubbs, Kha, Sepuya, and Szwarc beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder but also in the artist’s self-reflexive gaze.
Press release adapted from Jane Ursula Harris' essay Serving Everything But Face