Martine Syms “Vertical Elevated Oblique” at Bridget Donahue, New York
Bridget Donahue presents “Vertical Elevated Oblique,” a new body of work from Martine Syms. For her first solo show with the gallery, Syms was inspired by a riff on a popular joke. “Everybody wanna be a black woman but nobody wanna be a black woman.” Using the 17th century text Chirologia: Or the Natural Language of the Hand as a guide she created an inventory of gestures for performance.
Notes on Gesture is a video comparing authentic and dramatic gestures. The piece alternates between title cards proposing hypothetical situations and short, looping clips that respond. The actor uses her body to quote famous, infamous, and unknown women. She repeats and interprets each movement several times, switching from a physical vernacular to acting techniques likes blocking and cheating. The world of the film is imported to the gallery through costumes, staged objects, a monochromatic fake wall, and a color filter used for simulating purple neon or a nightclub atmosphere.
Alongside these works is a suite of double-sided photographs mounted on century stands, a standard workhorse of film production. This ad hoc collection gathers images of women sourced from family photos, magazines, advertisements, movies, and television. Each image features a “speaking motion” forming a chorus of action. The women pictured are models of agency. Their bodies are frequently used to express popular ideas and emotions. What do they signify? What politics do they perform?
In the office: For the duration of the exhibition, the gallery will host a bookshop featuring editions from Dominica and associates, including Lauren Anderson, Black Radical Imagination, E. Jane, Gene’s Liquor, Nicky Benedek, Marco Braunschweiler, Kayla Guthrie, David Hartt, Kahlil Joseph, Chloe Maratta, Hassan Rahim, Diamond Stingily and Wilmer Wilson IV.
until 1 November 2015
Martine Syms, “Vertical Elevated Oblique” installation views at Bridget Donahue, New York, 2015
Copyright: the artist. Courtesy: Bridget Donahue, New York. Photo: Marc Brems Tatti.