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, framed in gold, and hung on white walls. Each print measures approximately 17 x 12½ 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, framed in black, and hung on dark gray 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: The Freudian concept of the uncanny and Surrealism’s representations of the unconscious run through the work of Polish artist Aneta Grzeszykowska. But even more than to Freud or the Surrealists, who were regularly flummoxed by women’s inner lives, her work relates to such works as psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott’s writings on relationships between mothers and children; philosopher Julia Kristeva’s theory of 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—Polish proto-feminist Alina Szapocznikow’s sculptures.
Grzeszykowska has often used her own body to explore the splitting of self in response to internal or external forces. For the 2014 series “Selfie,” she made pigskin replicas of her fingers, vagina, eyes, breasts, and other body parts, and shot them against leather backgrounds. Last year, she worked with craftsmen to fabricate a silicone model of her torso and head, documenting its creation in a series of color photos. The bust is also at the center of her newest series, “Mama,” for which the artist photographed her eight-year-old daughter, Franciszka, interacting with it as if it were a doll.
A selection of images from “Mama” occupies a gray-painted, dramatically lit room in Lyles & King’s downstairs space. They show Franciszka alternating between loving and hostile gestures, sometimes seeming to merge with the dummy, at other times marking it as separate from herself. She hugs it, submerges it in water, bathes it, offers it a cigarette, curls up with it in bed, smears its face with paint, and pulls it behind her in a wagon. In one of the creepiest pictures, she appears to be either burying it or digging it up.
I preferred the group of 2017 photographs upstairs showing 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 more straightforward means.
Certain of the works in this show, particularly those in an album of outtakes from the “Mama” series, read as overly stagey. Nevertheless, the best of them convey the complexities of women’s often ambivalent relationships with their mothers, their daughters, 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.