JTF (just the facts): A two venue show, hung against white walls in the main space and a darkened room at 11R and against black walls in the front and back gallery spaces at Lyles & King.
There are a total of 7 color photographs, 6 mounted collages, 2 sculptures, and 2 videos on display at 11R. The photographs are pigment ink on cotton, made in 2014 and 2015. These works are sized between roughly 11×14 and 19×23, and available in editions of 3+1AP. The collages are executed in both black and white and color, from 2016. Each is sized roughly 20×26 and in an edition of 3+1AP. The sculptures are made from recycled leather, from 2016, and are sized roughly 14x9x8. The videos are 7:28 an 11:37 respectively, made in 2008/2010 and 2008. Each is available in an edition of 7 (Installation shots below.)
There are a total of 2 videos, 16 photographs (includig 1 diptych), and 2 sculptures on view at Lyles & King. The photographs are pigment ink on cotton paper, made in 2012/2013 and 2016. The single image works are each sized roughly 15×20 (or reverse) and available in editions of 7+2AP; the diptych panels are sized roughly 39×28 each, and the work is available in an edition of 3+1AP. The videos are 3:12 and 6:13 respectively, from 2016 and 2014. They are available in editions of 3 and 7. The sculptures are made from natural leather or wood with stuffing and metal, from 2016 and 2015/2016. They are sized roughly 16x21x39 and 31x38x30. (Installation shots below.)
Comments/Context: For the Polish artist Aneta Grzeszykowska, faces and bodies provide the surprisingly malleable raw material for a thoughtful array of construction and deconstruction exercises. Spread across two gallery spaces and a variety of artistic mediums (including photography, sculpture, and video), each discrete body of work unpacks customary modes of visualizing the human form, using inversion, negation, substitution, fragmentation, and repetition as intentional approaches to upending our expectations. Executed with a dark precision that borders on the spookily surreal, her pictures surgically disassemble everyday notions of body-based identity, testing the limits of how far we can dissect ourselves before we lose our sense of self.
The earliest of the works on view are two black and white videos that find Grzeszykowska using the isolating presence of a black curtain/backdrop to focus our attention on the formal qualities of bodies. In Headache (from 2008), disembodied arms and legs attack the artist’s head with increasing roughness, slapping and kicking, tugging hair and pulling skin, until the head is ultimately dragged away and the arms and legs try to reattach to the torso in the wrong positions. In Bolimorfia (from 2008/2010), the artist’s nude body executes various moves and stretches before being iteratively multiplied out into repetitive geometric forms reminiscent of a Busby Berkeley film. In both, a personal form is broken down and reconfigured, turning into something more inhuman and mechanistic.
In her series of black and white images entitled Negative Book (and in the accompanying video Negative Process which shows how she made the pictures), Grzeszykowska burrows inside the positive/negative dichotomy of analog photography, only to consciously reverse some of its tonalities. By painting herself black (with white highlights), she appears to glow in the otherwise dark negative scenes, like a ghost or a strangely opposite radioactive intruder. A mundane dinner party, a day at the beach, a cozy moment lying in bed with a child, or sitting with her hair in a towel in a hotel room are all made eerie and quietly troubling by the reversal, each an unsettling negation of something otherwise intimate and personal.
This investigation of her own skin takes a more ghoulish turn in her series Selfie, where body parts are replicated in pigskin, becoming creepy doll still lifes that are tenderly touched by human hands. A breast, an oval of belly with a navel, a mouth and chin, and a few loose fingers look plausibly real until we notice the pebbled texture of the pigskin, at which point the instinctual revulsion sets in, and we wonder whether we have slipped into some sci-fi body part harvesting or cloning story. And when the hands paint the lips of an undersized pigskin face a fire engine red, things get even more oddly grim and anxious, the ubiquitous image-controlling photographic selfie taking an unsettling physical form.
Other recent works continue this investigation of replacement and reversal. Grzeszykowska collages her own naked body into nudes by the photographer Wojciech Zamecznik, inserting herself into an otherwise intimate dialogue. And she applies makeup in a pair of portraits, reversing the lipstick and skin color, turning a seemingly normal portrait into a strangely orange concoction of misplaced identity.
Seen together, Grzeszykowska’s smart double show gets inside the concept of imagery as identity and then brusquely unravels the standard conclusions. While her skin selfies are the most memorably disturbing, her negative snapshots with reversed black and white tonalities offer a subtler kind of unnerving disorientation – they deftly play with the technical capabilities of the photographic medium, twisting our expectations about how negatives are supposed to behave. It’s that moment of comprehension that something is amiss where she hooks us – the snapshots aren’t at all what they should be, channeling our attention toward the often overlooked nuances of manufactured reality.
Collector’s POV: The photographic works in this show are priced as follows. In the 11R show, the prints are €4000 each, while the collages are €4500 each. In the Lyles & King show, the single image prints are $2600, while the diptych is $12000. Grzeszykowska’s work has little secondary market history, so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.
Halfway through looking at the gallery shots I was wondering if it was Grzeszkowska who once did a terrific series of re-enactments of Cindy Sherman’s Film Stills, in colour – and yes it was. While this show is very different yet within it there is then still some subtle sense of continuity going back over a decade.