Nov 5th 2015

John Stezaker: The Truth of Masks

@ Richard Gray Gallery

875 North Michigan Avenue, 38th Floor, Chicago, IL

Opening Thursday, November 5th, from 6PM - 8PM

On view through Saturday, December 12th

Exhibition accompanied by illustrated catalogue with essay by London-based scholar Michael Bracewell.

For the past forty years John Stezaker has taken the position of an image flâneur, meandering through the endless archives of vintage Hollywood film stills, anonymous found photographs and antique travel postcards. Employing imagery from these sources, Stezaker transforms the photographs through alterations, deletions, inversions and juxtapositions, finding pictorial allegiances among far-flung sources. As Michael Bracewell notes in his catalogue essay, the core of Stezaker’s practice is the “hybridization of second-hand images” in which divergent cultural associations are mutated and re-directed. They become, in effect, “transmissions of a Mass Age dream world.”

The Truth of Masks draws from several strains of the artist’s work, all united through meticulous juxtaposition. Glamorous silver screen headshots and film stills are laid beneath vintage colored postcards of the idyllic English landscape. Loving couples and glossy film stars are transfigured by bridges, trees and oceans. These recombinations pose more questions than answers, drawing relationships between seemingly incompatible images that nonetheless find surrealistic resolution. In the series titled “Double Shadows,” Stezaker complicates the reading of an image by placing a cut-out silhouette over an inverted scene, resulting in a visually confusing yet intuitively coherent arrangement of line and form. Throughout his work Stezaker pinpoints the tension of opposites to achieve elusive and otherworldly effects.

John Stezaker (b. 1949, England) was awarded the Deutsche Borse Photography prize in 2012. He has had solo exhibitions at the Netherlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam; Centre de la Photographie, Geneva, Switzerland; Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel; The Whitechapel Gallery, London; and the Mildred Lane Kemper Museum of Art, St. Louis, among others. His work is in museum collections around the world including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Seattle Art Museum, Washington; the Saatchi Collection, London; and the Tate Modern, London. He lives and works in London.

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