27 April – 20 August 2017, Gallery 7
The Whitechapel Gallery presents the first major public display of the ISelf Collection in the UK this spring.
Continuing the Whitechapel Gallery’s programme of opening up rarely seen collections from around the world, the four exhibitions are each titled after a key artwork in each display. Self-portrait as the Billy Goat brings together a selection of physical, psychological and imaginary self-portraits by more than a dozen leading international artists this spring.
Twenty-five works from international artists including Pawel Althamer, Louise Bourgeois, André Breton and the Surrealists, Enrico David, Tracey Emin, Gilbert & George, Gabriel Kuri, Yayoi Kusama, Linder, Aditya Mandayam, Raqs Media Collective, Prem Sahib and Cindy Sherman, reveal how these artists stage their own bodies or self-reflections to examine the different ways that we build our sense of personal identity.
A series of photo strips by André Breton (1896-1966, France) and his Surrealist colleagues open the first chapter in a series of displays. Taken in 1929, they experimented with a new form of instantaneous self-portraiture, the photobooth. Rather than choosing a straightforward pose, they look sideways or away from the camera, playing with different poses – smoking, thinking or laughing, depicting themselves as complex and multi-faceted individuals.
By staging their own portraits the artists in this display examine the mechanisms that we use to present ourselves to the world. In her Untitled (1977/2010) photographs, Cindy Sherman (b.1954, USA) stages her appearance through a curtain call where she poses as four different actors. The agency of the artist in the set-up of the image also comes to the fore in Linder’s (b.1954, UK) disturbing portrait You search but do not see (1981-2010) where she appears to be almost suffocating in a plastic bag.
Tracing the psychology of the artist and the role of mother, daughter, wife and lover was at the forefront of Louise Bourgeois’ (1911 – 2010, France) work. She presents herself as mother in Untitled (2005) and was to influence Tracey Emin (b.1963, UK), whose intimate nude gouaches Im here (2014) and Fist Clasped (2014) are included in the display.
The exhibition title is taken from Pawel Althamer’s (b. 1967, Poland) flayed and melancholic self-portrait in the guise of Auguste Rodin’s famous The Thinker (1903), with an additional twist in that he represents himself as a Billy Goat. The relationship between body and feeling is considered further by Gabriel Kuri (b. 1970, Mexico) through his work Self portrait as chart with looping volume (2012) which reflects on notions of unity and disembodiment.
This display aims to reveal how artists convey the complex dynamics below the surface of their appearances. Yayoi Kusama’s (b.1929, Japan) Infinity Nets YSOR (2011) from an ongoing series of delicate, abstract white paintings explores the landscape of her mind.On show alongside this is Prem Sahib’s (b. 1982, UK) Undetectable (2013), a minimal sculpture that references an undetectable HIV status.
Notes to Editors
-Central to the ISelf Collection is identity, with particular reference to the human condition. Through painting, sculpture and vintage photography the themes of birth, death, sexuality, love, pain and joy are all rigorously explored. Many of the works examine the existential dilemma that is inherent to human nature. Figuration plays a major part, and a majority of the artists represented are women. ISelf Collection was established in 2009 by Maria and Malek Sukkar, and the collection is curated and managed by Anderson O’Day Fine Art.
-For over a century the Whitechapel Gallery has premiered world class artists from modern masters such as Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Frida Kahlo to contemporaries such as Sophie Calle, Lucian Freud, Gilbert & George and Mark Wallinger. With beautiful galleries, exhibitions, artist commissions, collection displays, historic archives, education resources, inspiring art courses, dining room and bookshop, the Gallery is open all year round, so there is always something free to see. It is a touchstone for contemporary art internationally, plays a central role in London’s cultural landscape and is pivotal to the continued growth of the world’s most vibrant contemporary art quarter.
-Future Iself Collection displays include: ISelf Collection: The End of Love (30 August – 26 November 2017); ISelf Collection: Structures of Chance (5 December 2017 – 1 April 2018) and ISelf Collection: Bumped Bodies (10 April – 12 August 2018).
-The Whitechapel Gallery Iself Collection displays exhibitions are curated by Emily Butler, Mahera and Mohammad Abu Ghazaleh Curator, Whitechapel Gallery with Candy Stobbs, Assistant Curator, Whitechapel Gallery.
-The exhibitions are accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue entitled Creating Ourselves, exhibition price: £24.99 with essays by Glenn Adamson, Frances Borzello, Emily Butler, Nicholas Cullinan, Amelia Jones and Lydia Yee, as well as an interview between Iwona Blazwick and collector Maria Sukkar.
Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm, Thursdays, 11am – 9pm. Admission free. Whitechapel Gallery, 77 – 82 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX. Nearest London Underground Station: Aldgate East, Liverpool Street, Tower Gateway DLR. T + 44 (0) 20 7522 7888 firstname.lastname@example.org whitechapelgallery.org
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