Exhibition of Michelle Stuart’s New Photographic Works
Widely recognized as one of the very few female pioneers of Land Art, Michelle Stuart is known for her nature-based art dating to the late 1960s and 1970s. Comparatively lesser-known are her remarkable photographic works, which constitute a crucial part of her oeuvre and have been her primary focus over the past several years.
Organized by guest curator Gregory Volk, Michelle Stuart, Theatre of Memory: Photographic Works consists of twelve recent large-scale works—including a major wall piece created specifically for this exhibition—as well as two important pieces from the early 1980s that can be seen as precursors to Stuart’s later direction. This exhibition is the first museum treatment of Stuart’s photography-based works.
“Michelle Stuart is an innovator, and her turn to photography in the last few years, once again, shows that she is always exploring new ways to create unique perspectives on the world,” said Holly Block, Executive Director of The Bronx Museum of the Arts. “We are excited to present her recent and new work at The Bronx Museum.”
Since 2008, Stuart has been engaged in creating an inventive photographic output composed of multiple, diverse images that are often presented in the form of large grids. Photo-based images are further altered through a unique process that Stuart developed. These form into loose narratives evocative of various times and places, often with autobiographical resonances. Overall compositions—composed of anywhere from nine to 84 separate units—engage her central themes: memory, exploration, history, time, nature, human relationships, the cosmos, and cultural conflict. “These large, gridded works,” writes Volk in his essay for the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition, “are combinatory, eclectic, and rich with abundant correspondences and connections. They are also a visually and formally masterful and complex mesh of shifting colors, tones, shapes, and structures.”
The exhibition will also debut My Still Life (2015-16), a major, large-scale work created for this show—“an autobiographical opus of sorts,” as Volk describes it. Photographs of a series of what might be called ‘sculptural vignettes’ bring together objects and images—including archival and vintage personal photographs, actual things (e.g., a whale bone, a ceramic frog, a pomegranate), maps, celestial landscapes, and fragments of writing on paper, among others—many of which Stuart collected and have been with her for years. In her studio, Stuart formed these sundry materials into evocative compositions, into mini-stage sets that capture multiple realities, then photographed them. By combining real objects and fictive images, and images of images, this work plumbs the genre of the photographic still life in utterly novel ways.
Also included in the exhibition are two works from Stuart’s early 1980s Codex series, with squares of earth-rubbed paper (the earth is from specific sites that Stuart visited, including a New Jersey quarry and the ancient Maya city of Uxmal in Mexico) surrounded by photographs of the same site. Stuart’s Codex pieces, with their incorporation of photos, herald her recent photography-based work.
A forty-page catalogue accompanies the exhibition. The Bronx Museum will host a public reception on Wednesday, February 10, from 5 to 8 p.m.