Jack Shainman Gallery opens an exhibition featuring a new body of work by Jackie Nickerson

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Jack Shainman Gallery opens an exhibition featuring a new body of work by Jackie Nickerson
Jackie Nickerson, Underground Farm I, 2019. Digital c-print, 48 x 60 inches (print) Ed.1,1AP. Images courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

NEW YORK, NY.- Jack Shainman Gallery is presenting Field Test, a new body of work by Jackie Nickerson. With photographic compositions that are almost sculptural in nature, there is a stunning materiality to these anonymous portrait-like photographs, in which faces are shrouded, shielded, perhaps suffocated – both literally, by the vibrant, textured plastics that wrap each figure, and metaphorically, by the consumerism of the modern world.

At the core of this series is Nickerson’s engagement with the socio- and psychological stress of technology and the effects its ever-present byproducts have on the human body. From the industrialization of plastic to the rapidly changing, abstract digital realm, these images respond to the readily evident fact that technology is reshaping the world, and those who inhabit it.

While Nickerson’s photographs have historically explored synthetic and natural materiality, Field Test extends beyond their incorporation, implicitly questioning the corporeal form and materials as obstructions, masks, and even protective barriers. She draws on her strong methodology, researching and choosing the exact components of each image prior to arranging them compositionally. There are mostly single individuals, each draped, obscured, and even constricted by tape, plastics, and other synthetic materials. Though human, each is neutralized, and one step further removed from more signifiers of identity such as race, personality, and gender. Her use of these inorganic resources is reminiscent of medical protective gear, if not a disguise or a means of avoiding recognition, suggesting an attack on the human body by an inhuman source and, above all, underscoring the lengths we must go to become “digitally anonymous.”

Rather presciently, Field Test was completed before the Covid-19 pandemic. While the work’s preoccupations are particularly pertinent to the post-Covid-19 world, they have their roots in a much broader range of concerns, of which the pandemic is but one symptom. What we see in Field Test emerges from the inner logic of Nickerson’s development over a number of years. In a natural progression from her most recent series, Terrain, Field Test operates on a far more abstract level. Rather than drawing from the natural world, Nickerson explores the “made world” and questions the frequency with which we relinquish control to technology and allow it to govern our daily lives. The materials in use range from the agricultural to the medical, and while they vary in their functionality, their commonality lies in Nickerson’s subtle decontextualization. In metamorphosing the body into a nebulous figure, one void of identity and facial recognition, each portrait is no longer just that, but rather an anonymous representation of who we have become the wake of globalization and commercialization.

Nickerson brings sense of anonymity and formalism in works such as Pink Head, leaving only one strand of hair out of the paper material and tape masking the person beneath. With Hybrid, we are drawn to consider the dynamic relationships between plastics and the human body, which has become dangerously closer and more dependent with time. Drawing on the titular phrase, Field Test is an exploration of all that is visible and invisible, relative to what we believe we know and see.

Nickerson currently divides her time between London and rural Ireland. Her photographs are held in many collections including Museum of Modern Art, NY; the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, KS; Pier 24, CA; the Vatican Museums, Italy; the Rubell Collection, FL; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA; The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin; and have been featured in numerous museum exhibitions, including solo shows at the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin; the Accademia d’Arte, Bologna, Italy; the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, OH; and group shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, IL; the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA; among others. Jackie Nickerson was commissioned by TIME to travel to Liberia to photograph the 2014 Person of the Year, The Ebola Fighters, and was recently awarded Best Fashion and Beauty Cover by the American Society of Magazine Editors for her cover of Lupita Nyong’o for Vanity Fair.

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