Aneta Grzeszkowska, Mama @Lyles & King

JTF (just the facts): A total of 23 black-and-white and color photographs and one photo album displayed in the gallery’s upstairs and downstairs exhibition spaces.

In the upstairs space: five pigment prints on cotton paper, all dated 2017, matted and framed in gold frames and hung on white walls. Each print measures approximately 17 x 12 ½ inches, and is available in an edition of 3 + 1AP.

In the downstairs space: nine pigment prints on cotton paper and eight gelatin silver prints, all dated 2018, matted and framed in black frames and hung on dark grey walls. Each print measures approximately 20 x 14 inches and is available in an edition of 5 + 1AP.

On a pedestal at the entrance to the downstairs space: A photo album containing 30 gelatin silver prints and 20 pigment prints on cotton paper. Each print measures approximately 11 x 8 inches. The album is dated 2018 and is available in an edition of 5 + 1AP. (Installation views below.)

Comments/Context: Freud’s theory of the uncanny, and the Surrealists’ interest in the unconscious, run through the work of Polish artist Aneta Grzeszykowska. But even more than to Freud or the Surrealists, who were regularly stymied by women’s inner lives, it’s related to such works as psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott’s writings on the relationship between mothers and their children, theorist Julia Kristeva’s writings on the abject, Cindy Sherman’s self-portraits, Chantal Akerman’s films (particularly News from Home, in which Akerman reads from her mother’s letters to her), Aura Rosenberg’s photographs of her daughter Carmen, and—especially—and Polish proto-feminist Alina Szapocznikow’s sculptures.

Grzeszykowska has often used her own body to explore the internal or external splitting of self. For the 2014 series “Selfie,” she made pigskin replicas of her fingers, vagina, eyes, breasts, and other body parts, and photographed them. Last year, she worked with craftsmen to fabricate a silicone model of her torso and head, documenting its creation with her camera. This replica is also at the center of her newest series, “Mama,” for which the artist photographed her young daughter interacting with it as if it were a doll.

A selection of images from “Mama” occupies a grey-painted, dramatically lit room in Lyles & King’s downstairs space. They show the child alternating between loving and hostile gestures, hugging the mother figure, submerging it in water, bathing it, pretending to make it smoke, curling up with it in bed, smearing its face with paint, and pulling it behind her in a wagon. In the creepiest pictures, the replica is shown wrapped in a black plastic garbage bag, as if dumped by a killer. More successful are the photographs in which the girl appears to either merge with the model or to mark it as other than herself, abject.

Upstairs, a more straightforward group of photographs from 2017 shows the artist modeling for the camera in a series of cosmetic masks. Variously resembling surgical bandages, terrorists’ balaclavas, and bondage gear, such products are intended to smooth, heal, or lift the skin. Here, however, they render the artist’s face as an abstract jumble of features, fragmenting it as in the “Selfie” pictures, but by different, and simpler means.

Blurring performance art, sculpture, and photography, the works in this show, particularly those in an album of outtakes from the “Mama” series, can seem overly stagey. Nevertheless, the best of them convey the complexities of women’s often ambivalent relationships with their mothers, their children, and their own self-image.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show range in price from $3500 to $12000. Grzeszkowska’s work has little secondary market history, so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

Read more about: Aneta Grzeszykowska, Lyles & King

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