artist / participant
This fall, the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) will present an exhibition of artworks by contemporary conceptual photographer and filmmaker Sara Cwynar. Her first solo show at a U.S. museum, Sara Cwynar: Image Model Muse will debut at Mia on September 14, 2018, and run through January 20, 2019, before traveling to the Milwaukee Art Museum, which co-organized the exhibition. Curated by Gabriel Ritter, Curator and Head of Contemporary Art at Mia, and Lisa J. Sutcliffe, Herzfeld Curator of Photography and Media Arts at the Milwaukee Art Museum, the exhibition will open March 8, 2019, at the Milwaukee Art Museum and run through July 21, 2019.
Brooklyn-based artist Sara Cwynar (b. 1985, Vancouver, Canada) explores the subjects of color and design, both in film and photography, and considers the ways they have operated politically, socially, and historically, particularly in the context of how beauty is conceptualized. Mia will present 11 photographs from the artist’s ongoing "Tracy" series, along with three of her most recent films—Soft Film (2016), Rose Gold (2017), and Cover Girl (2018).
“Sara Cwynar’s work is at the vanguard of a younger generation of conceptual photographers who, in the digital age, explore the relationship between physical reality and its reproduction,” Ritter said. “Her work questions the permanence of objects when popular culture renders the lifespan of images increasingly short. The obsessive materiality of her photographic images call attention to their constructedness, serving not only as a compelling formal device, but as a metaphor for how beauty and desire are also constructs in and of themselves.”
The Tracy series features a suite of studio portraits of the artist’s eponymous friend and muse set against vivid backdrops of reds, greens, and multi-colored grids. The portraits are superimposed with found objects and photographs from the artist’s vast collection of stock images and text clippings that visualize the interrelated histories of color and the representation of women. The manipulated, collaged images are then re-photographed.
“Cwynar’s multi-disciplinary practice across photography, film, and performance echoes and responds to video and performance art of the 1960s and 1970s, in which the artist is both subject and object of the camera,” Sutcliffe said. “Presenting her full range of work provides opportunities for conversations about how women and objects have historically been depicted in art.”
Cwynar’s films—Soft Film (2016), Rose Gold (2017), and Cover Girl (2018)—all shot on 16 mm, are meditations on the emotional impact of color, design, and popular imagery and their role in the manifestation of desire. She builds multilayered theses that look not just to the history of design and production, but also to the ebb and flow of the political realm we inhabit. Through voiceovers, Cwynar quotes philosophers, cultural theorists, and writers. She also considers how a post-feminist landscape can make both the sexism and counter-sexism of earlier decades appear dated, even kitsch. Yet Cwynar constantly returns to the theme of progress and reaction and explores how these are still powerful forces, regardless of the forms they may now take.
Sara Cwynar received a Bachelor of Design from York University, Toronto, Canada, in 2010 and an MFA from Yale University, New Haven, Conn., in 2016. Recent exhibitions include Sara Cwynar: Tracy, Oakville Galleries, Ontario, Canada (2018); Hard to Picture: A Tribute to Ad Reinhardt, Mudam, Luxembourg; Subjektiv, Malmö Konsthall, Sweden; You Are Looking at Something That Never Occurred, Zabludowicz Collection, London (all 2017); and Greater New York, MoMA PS1, Queens, N.Y. (2015/16).