Jan 07 2014

Laurel Nakadate: Strangers and Relations, January 18-April 6

The University Art Gallery presents Laurel Nakadate: Strangers and Relations, an exhibition of large-scale color portrait photographs drawn from Nakadate’s Star Portraits and Relations series. Records of first-time encounters, taken at night in isolated locations, lit by moonlight and a single handheld flashlight, these photographs construct fragile, intimate relationships between artist, subject, and viewer. Nakadate will speak about her work on April 4th at 4:30 pm in Convocation Hall. Reception to follow. In association with the exhibition, the Friends of the University Art Gallery will present a screening of the feature length film The Wolf Knife (2010), written and directed by Nakadate, on February 25th at 7:30 pm in the SUT.

Laurel Nakadate Carolina Beach, North Carolina #1, 2013 Type-C print 40 x 60 inches

During the summer of 2011, Laurel Nakadate began to photograph strangers for the Star Portraits series, inviting friends of friends, Facebook “friends,” and curious members of the online community to meet her at night in remote corners of the United States and Europe. During the same time period, Nakadate also undertook DNA and genealogical research, discovering genetic ties to the descendants of slaves and pilgrims, the McCoy clan, and the early Protestant feminist Anne Hutchinson, among others. She contacted distant relatives on DNA websites, and arranged to meet them, also at night, in order to make their portraits for Relations. Her subjects, whether distant relatives or Internet contacts, appeared for their portraits without prior instructions and chose their own clothing. The results are photographic performances that record the instant that the artist and her subjects see each other for the first time, capturing the connection of strangers. This connection has been an important part of Nakadate’s work since her earliest video pieces, in which she recorded herself dancing or singing with strangers met through chance encounters. In the photographs of Strangers and Relations, Nakadate does not appear in front of the camera herself, except in the DNA that she shares with her diverse subjects. She writes:

In my early videos, I physically appeared in the work.  In these new portraits, I am allowing my body, my DNA, to navigate my direction; where I will travel and whom I will meet. These strangers, who are also distant cousins, share bits of DNA with me – in some ways, these images become modern day self-portraits. I see these strangers, who are also relatives, as little glimmers of the ancestors who connected us hundreds of years ago.

Laurel Nakadate was born in Austin, Texas in 1975 and raised in Ames, Iowa. From 1999 to 2001, while completing her MFA in photography at Yale University, she began to create provocative works in video, photography, performance and film that challenge conventional perceptions of power, seduction, tenderness and trust. Nakadate’s early relationship to the fixed single viewpoint of the camera (as both artist and subject), her insistence on simple production values, and her upending of public and private ritualistic behaviors, anticipated the amateur video aesthetic of YouTube diaries and internet blogs. A major monograph, 365 Days: A Catalogue of Tears, featuring a year long photographic “performance,” in which the artist forced herself to cry each day during the year 2010, was recently published by Hatje Cantz and the Zabludowicz Collection, London.

Laurel Nakadate has participated in solo and group exhibitions at museums and galleries worldwide including a critically acclaimed ten-year survey Laurel Nakadate: Only the Lonely at MoMA PS 1 in 2011. Her works are in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Cincinnati Art Museum; the Yale University Art Gallery; the Princeton University Art Museum; the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College; the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; and other distinguished institutions. The artist has also received widespread acclaim for two feature-length films, Stay the Same Never Change, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, and The Wolf Knife (2010), which was nominated for Gotham and Independent Spirit Awards and was the featured work in The Believer Magazine’s 2012 annual film issue.

Sewanee’s University Art Gallery is located on Georgia Avenue on the campus of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.  The gallery is free, accessible, and open to the public. Hours are 10 – 5 Tuesday through Friday and 12 – 4 on Saturday and Sunday.  Please call (931) 598-1223 for more information. The image included above is: Laurel Nakadate, Carolina Beach, North Carolina #1, 2013, Type-C print, 40 x 60 inches.

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