“I’ve made it because it comes closer to saying who I am than any other method I can use. This work is my identity.” —David Smith ‘Tradition and Identity’, 1959
Danysz Gallery is pleased to present an online exhibition devoted to portraits. As the exhibition title True Face suggests, the exhibition’s main preoccupations are the meaning, the ideology and the subversive power of portraits. Portraiture in Western art has been crucial for construction and articulation of individualism. It allowed artists to appropriate the means of representation, both aesthetic and political, and articulate new forms of selfhood. However, contemporary artists often use portraiture in a more social way; to draw links between their immediate group of friends or inner circle.
Rakajoo’s eponymous painting, Blond, rendered in his signature broad brushstrokes, shows a man with a pertinent gaze. His figure is placed in the foreground of a large canvas depicting a popular vegan spot in Paris and allowing for an experience that Maurice Merleau-Ponty described as a “figure stand(ing) out against the double horizon of external and bodily space.” Rakajoo’s visceral works give an impression of a well-researched, in-depth study of contemporaneity.
The artist places his portraits in an interaction with each other, establishing connections between an individual and a group, thus suggesting the reading of identity as a collective construct.
In Zhang Dali’s photorealistic portraits the written text ‘AK-47’ blends seamlessly into the human form, collapsing the boundary between physical and ideological. The artist represents our contemporary self as a collection of never-endings and narratives defined by the overriding influence of the society on an individual.
Portraiture is closely interlinked with the cultural and political role of images. After 1789, portraiture came to dominate French visual culture addressing the complex issue of how to turn subjects into citizens. French-Palestinian artist, Abdul Rahman Katanani, explores the loss of citizenship and statelessness, when the construction of identity becomes even more complex. His work Girl Blue Salopette, depicting a girl at play, is made out of repurposed oil barrels. The portrait, or a human form, is embedded in the material and the separation of both becomes increasingly difficult. In the case of Liberté Unité by artistic duo Faile the driving motive behind the portrait is the street. The place of interaction and happening, a composite of transformation and changing face of New York and the US – not least thanks to the impact of Black Lives Matter. The final product is decidedly hyper visual and multi-layered.
With the rise of social media, one of the main functions of portrait, producing likeness, lost its meaning; selfies and photographs on Internet are all recognized as portraiture. The exhibition’s aim is to put the idea of truthfulness of a portrait into question emphasizing the portrait as a multi-layered construct rather than a seamless resemblance.