LACMA exhibits selections from the Sir Mark Fehrs Haukohl Photography Collection
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LACMA exhibits selections from the Sir Mark Fehrs Haukohl Photography Collection
Melanie Bonajo in collaboration with Kinga Kielczynska, Metamemory from the series Modern Life Of The Soul, 2007, dye coupler print, 23 5/8 × 34 5/8 in., promised gift of The Sir Mark Fehrs Haukohl Photography Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Brooklyn Museum, © Melanie Bonajo and Kinga Kielczynska, digital image courtesy of the artists and AKINCI, Amsterdam.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents In the Now: Gender and Nation in Europe, Selections from the Sir Mark Fehrs Haukohl Photography Collection, featuring photo-based artwork made after the year 2000 by nearly 40 women artists born or working in Europe. The exhibition explores the ways in which artists and societal forces are challenging traditional descriptive categories of gender, nation, and photography. In the Now highlights a selection of works from the collection of Sir Mark Fehrs Haukohl, which were recently donated to LACMA and the Brooklyn Museum. The joint acquisition includes significant works by Yto Barrada, Uta Barth, Natalie Czech, Josephine Pryde, and Shirana Shahbazi and new works will be added to the collection over the next decade.

“We are grateful to Sir Mark Fehrs Haukohl for his generous gift of important works by women photographers working in the new millennium and for his commitment to the scholarship of this field,” says LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan. “The collection bolsters LACMA’s prominent holdings of contemporary photography, which includes self-portraits from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection as well as the Robert Mapplethorpe Archive. We are excited to join forces with the Brooklyn Museum, a leader in the study of feminist art.”

“The Sir Mark Fehrs Haukohl photography collection serves as a time capsule of the first two decades of the 21st century and initiates an exciting partnership with the Brooklyn Museum,” say Salvesen and Schillo. “The joint acquisition with the Brooklyn Museum provides an opportunity to collaborate on building the next decade of acquisitions. We look forward to seeing how artists capture the 2020s.”

In the Now is co-organized by Britt Salvesen, Curator and Head of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department and the Prints and Drawings Department at LACMA; Eve Schillo, Assistant Curator, Wallis Annenberg Photography Department at LACMA; and Drew Sawyer, Phillip Leonian and Edith Rosenbaum Leonian Curator of Photography at the Brooklyn Museum. Following the presentation at LACMA, the exhibition will travel to the Brooklyn Museum in 2023. The Annenberg Foundation has made a generous grant to support LACMA’s presentation of the exhibition.

In the Now is organized in three thematic sections: gender, nation, and photography, and seeks to question and broaden traditional notions of what constitutes womanhood, Europe, and the medium of photography. Many artists in the exhibition contend with representations of the body but have individual perspectives on such issues as beauty, femininity, objectification, and what it means to be an artist who identifies as a woman in the 21st century. Likewise, these artists, while born or based in Europe, may or may not position their practice geographically or in accordance with nationalisitic assumptions around identity. Some are grappling with the legacy of Soviet rule, while others have emigrated from elsewhere in the world. Finally, wideranging material and conceptual approaches by these artists testify to the expediting force of technology, which has made photography subject to greater circulation, alteration, and abstraction. The exhibition seeks to question and broaden what constitutes each of these categories.

In her series Photo-Souvenirs, Carolle Bénitah (Morocco, b. 1965, active France) investigates time, memory, and identity by reinterpreting photographs from her family’s archive. Born in Morocco, Bénitah moved to Paris as an adolescent to study fashion. From this perspective of distance, she rediscovered her family’s albums and began to contemplate their portrayal of past identities, including her own. First, she selected, scanned, and created new prints of the original photographs. Then, honing her talent at needlework, she embroidered patterns onto them with bright red thread. Le déguisement (The Disguise) (2013) was taken on the occasion of a primary school celebration of Purim, the Jewish holiday for which it is customary to wear costumes. Bénitah echoed the tradition by stitching veils over each child’s face and allowing loose ends to pool at the bottom of the frame.

Marlene Haring (Austria, b. 1978, active England) takes up hair as a charged, gendered symbol, a powerful, physical marker of femininity and desirability. From Aphrodite to “the bombshell,” long, fine, blonde tresses are key attributes of the most recognizable archetypes of Western art history and popular visual culture, belying the vast diversity of hair color and types in the worldwide populace. In her work Because Every Hair is Different (2015), Haring pushes this association to an absurd extreme, transforming herself into more of a surrealistic creature than an icon of feminine beauty. Haring’s gesture, at once performance, installation, and photography, complicates the link between hair and beauty: potentially, hair is also burdensome and grotesque, demanding endless investment of time and money.

Iris Hutegger (Austria, b. 1964, active Switzerland) has described her stitched photographs as “real images of fiction.” They begin in the landscape, specifically the mountainous region of Switzerland where the artist lives. While hiking, she takes color photographs which she then prints in black and white, assigning them numbers rather than location identifications. This first series of steps removes them from the specificity of their locale, rendering them almost abstract. Adding in color by way of her sewing machine, Hutegger creates a new realm, blooming with foliage unlike what could appear in reality. As seen in LSNr. 1408 420 (2014) and LSNr. 1408 421 (2014), emotional dimension of the stitching is two-fold: it adds imagined color and life, and shifts our sense of scale from a vast mountainous expanse to a minutely patterned surface. When depicting landscapes, Hutegger is careful to note her point of reference is not nature, but a mental space.

Eva Koťátková’s (Czechoslovakia [now Czech Republic], b. 1982, active Czechoslovakia) three vignettes titled Parallel Images [kotat_15_32_320], Parallel Images [kotat_15_32_321], Parallel Images [kotat_15_32_36] (2015) feature two figures in silhouette wielding various devices that suggest forms of control. Having grown up during the Soviet regime’s power over the former Czechoslovakia, Kot’átková creates collages, performances, and site-specific installations that explore the individual’s relationship to social structures and institutions such as hospitals and schools. Drawing on the aesthetics of Czech surrealism and absurdist literature from the 20th century, she often sources her pictorial and textual information from books on psychology, medicine, and social science, and finds narrative inspiration in the archives of local institutions, like the Bohnice Psychiatric Hospital outside of her native Prague.

In Untitled, September 2006 (2006) by Hannah Starkey (Northern Ireland, b. 1971, active England), a pregnant woman stands waist-deep in water, her body silhouetted against a large expanse of windows. The cinematic scene is at once tranquil and full of suspense. Since moving to London in the mid 1990s from her native Belfast in Northern Ireland, Starkey has been making singular, large-scale photographs of women in public spaces like this one. The photographer typically hires actors or models to pose for her, adding props and scouting architectural settings with symbolic resonances that question the documentary nature of photography and its representation of gender. Starkey often leaves her photographs untitled with the addition of the month and year in which the image was completed. While the choice to provide a date gives additional context and suggests a potential clue, the meaning of the image remains open to interpretation.

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