NEW YORK—Genevieve Gaignard: Counterfeit Currency, the LA-based artist’s first NY solo exhibition, opens from June 5-August 17, 2018 at Shulamit Nazarian on its 10th floor. The exhibition of new self-portraits and collages, all created in Florida, continues Gaignard’s interest in the performance of race, gender presentation, beauty standards, and class, through fictional personas and staged environments. The title, Counterfeit Currency, addresses the inherent complexities of self-presentation, noting that the way one appears to others is often incongruent with the way in which they see themselves, yielding a feeling of displacement and fraudulence.
Through a variety of female archetypes, Gaignard explores her own existence as a mixed-race woman of color, revealing the malleability of identity as something both self-constructed and culturally affected. In addition to photographic works, the artist will also present a new series of collages that combine vintage wallpaper and magazine cutouts to render dreamlike and satirical narratives.
In her full-floor installation at FLAG, Gaignard creates multiple “mise-en-abîme” environments in which objects depicted in her cinematic photographs and collages are present in the gallery’s space. Incorporating personal and politically-loaded objects, one vignette is furnished with vintage wall paper, rattan furniture, and a spring of porcelain black panther figurines, while another holds appearance-altering beauty products, such as skin-bleaching creams, face masks, and makeup. Seen together, the objects contained within the artist’s physiological spaces are designed to challenge assumptions and widen our understanding of each character. Like Federico Fellini’s film within a film 8 ½ (1963), Gaignard’s self-reflexive stage-like installations create an undercurrent of displacement and awareness that everything on view is a construction.
Serving as a central piece within the exhibition, Seeing is Believing, 2018, features a black mirror installed amidst a wallpapered sea of white, female Victorian faces. While the women gaze in judgement, the viewer is confronted with his or her own image, darkened by the mirror. Regardless of race, this piece underscores the distress of being seen as ‘other’ and brings to the forefront the complexities of race and racism.
Gaignard’s practice developed alongside the rise of “selfie culture,” which promotes shared social performance and constructed alternate realities. The context of such a self-conscious moment differentiates Gaignard’s work from other artists, such as Cindy Sherman, Nikki S. Lee, and Renée Cox, who also use the medium of photography and self-portraiture as a means of examining female identity. Gaignard cites drag culture, specifically the performer Divine, and film director John Waters as inspiration for the employment of kitsch as a methodology to disarm and engage viewers.