NEW YORK, NY.- The Jewish Museum
presents a series of recent, large-scale photographs by artist Laurie Simmons, on view from March 13 to August 9, 2015. The six new works in Laurie Simmons: How We See draw upon the Doll Girls community, people who alter themselves to look like Barbie, baby dolls, and Japanese anime characters through make-up, dress, and even cosmetic surgery. Evoking the tradition of the high-school portrait when teenagers present their idealized selves to the camera Simmons photographed fashion models seated in front of a curtain, cropped from the shoulders down. Prismatic lighting and small, surprising details in the models clothing give these otherwise banal images a psychedelic effect, which is exaggerated by each girls preternaturally large, sparkling eyes. They stare out at the viewer with an uncanny, alien gaze, created by lavishly painting eyes onto the models closed eyelidsa technique used by the Doll Girls themselves.
How We See draws an arc between portraits traded among classmates and the persona-play that Doll Girls rapidly execute on smartphones, where continuous feeds of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter allow alternate versions of the self to appear, morph, and disappear. Simmons has a longstanding interest in masking and disguises, and in these works probes the ever-widening gap between real life and the eerie artificiality enabled by social media. In How We See, Simmons explores contemporary notions of beauty, identity, and personainvestigating how individuality can be assembled through the distorted lens of idealized beauty.
Long before digital technologies were commonplace in daily life, Simmons immersed herself in imaginary, constructed worlds, from dollhouses in Early Color Interiors (1978 79), ventriloquists dummies in Clothes Make the Man (1990 92), and more recently Japanese cosplay in Kigurumi (2014). A constant thread through the artists work from 1978 to the present is an examination of self-perception. How we see ourselves, Simmons suggests, is best revealed through approximations, surrogates, and stand-ins. Laurie Simmons: How We See is the artists first solo museum exhibition in New York City.
Laurie Simmons (born Far Rockaway, New York, 1949) is a photographer and filmmaker. She received her bachelors degree in fine arts from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in 1971. Solo exhibitions of her work have been held at the Neues Museum, Nuremberg (2014); the Print Gallery at the New York Public Library (2010); the Baltimore Museum of Art (1997); the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1987); and P.S. 1, New York (1979). Her work has also been shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among other venues. She lives and works in New York.
Laurie Simmons: How We See is organized by Assistant Curator Kelly Taxter. Clothing by Rachel Antonoff and make-up by Landy Dean and James Kaliardos.