Photography, identity and popular culture are rife in our 5 To See this week. We begin with a unique examination of Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun’s lifelong pursuit of the self-image at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Across the Atlantic, Georgia O’Keeffe’s self-crafted public persona is explored through the images of Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams and Annie Leibovitz in Living Modern at Brooklyn Museum. Further afield in Hong Kong, M+ Pavilion pays homage to influential popular culture from the 1980s and 1990s in Ambiguously Yours, while back at home, Ikon Gallery commissions Oliver Beer to create a re-animation of the Jungle Book as a commentary on the passage of time.
1. Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun, Behind the Mask, Another Mask, National Portrait Gallery, London
National Portrait Gallery brings together for the first time the work of French artist Claude Cahun and British practitioner Gillian Wearing. Whilst they come from disparate background and decades – with almost 70 years between their dates of birth – remarkable parallels can be drawn between the two women. Notably, both of them share a fascination with the self-portrait and the self-image, executed through the use of photography. Moreover, both artists explore themes concerning identity and gender, which are often played out through masquerade and performance. The exhibition’s title draws on Cahun’s statement from 1930: “Under this mask, another mask. I will never finish removing all these faces.”
2. Above, Before & After, MCA Chicago
Specially selected from the gallery’s collection, the works featured in Above, Before & After ask viewers to consider that art objects often achieve their fullest value when viewers approach them from multiple angles. Rarely exhibited together, and spanning more than 60 years, the pieces on display manipulate form and space to explore the relationship between art and the audience. The presentation features a combination of two- and three-dimensional works including the MCA’s newly acquired Edward Krasinski’s Interwencja (Intervention) (1983), as well as collection highlights by artists John Baldessari, Alexander Calder, Alfredo Jaar, John McCracken, Bruce Nauman, Lorna Simpson, and Takis.
3. Oliver Beer, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham
The most comprehensive exhibition to date of work by British artist Oliver Beer comes to Ikon Gallery. Through film, sculpture and sound, it exemplifies his preoccupation with the physical and emotional properties of objects. The show is centred around a new, Ikon-commissioned piece entitled Reanimation (I Wan’na be Like You) (2017) – a ‘re-animation’ of a scene from Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book. For the work, Beer invited 2,500 children to each draw a single film still. These were then put in order of the participants’ ages so that the animation becomes increasingly ‘grown up’. Frame by frame the scribbles of infants give way to the lucid drawings of children, and then adolescents. This work touches on the passage of time through a time-based medium.
4. Ambiguously Yours: Gender in Hong Kong Popular Culture, M+ Pavilion, West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong
M+ provides new insights into Hong Kong’s popular culture through representations of androgyny and gender fluidity in the realms of Cantopop, fashion, film, photography, and graphic design. Through excerpts from films such as Stanley Kwan‘s Rouge (1988), and Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express (1994), Ambiguously Yours draws attention to the ways in which film has reflected changes in social and cultural attitudes to gender, and to the complexity of contemporary relationships. The show also presents works by photographers Julian Lee and Wing Shya, as well as Roman Tam’s iconic peacock costume. Through a total of 90 exhibits, the exhibition celebrates the creative experimentation and ongoing influence of multiple cultural fields from the 1980s and 1990s.
5. Georgia O’Keeffe, Living Modern, Brooklyn Museum, New York
Brooklyn Museum takes a new look at how the renowned modernist artist, Georgia O’Keeffe proclaimed her progressive, independent lifestyle through a self-crafted public persona – including her clothing and the way she posed for the camera. Living Modern expands our understanding of O’Keeffe by focusing on her wardrobe, shown for the first time alongside key paintings and photographs. The inclusion of portrait photographs by Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz, Philippe Halsman, Yousuf Karsh, Cecil Beaton, Andy Warhol, Bruce Weber, Todd Webb, and others, confirms O’Keeffe’s determination to be in charge of how the world understood her identity and artistic values.
1. Me as Cahun holding a mask of my face, by Gillian Wearing, 2012. Photograph: Gillian Wearing/Tanya Bonakdar Gallery/Maureen Paley.