Mitchell-Innes & Nash is pleased to present Embodiment, a group exhibition of works by Pope.L, Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Cheyenne Julien and Tschabalala Self that explores the different ways in which corporeality is envisioned and depicted within the spatial confines of the two-dimensional picture plane.
The body and its representations have often been used to give physical form to the intangible: a stand in, so to speak, for an emotion, an idea, a time or even an atmosphere. In sculptural and performative works, the viewer is able to observe the metaphors of the body in physical space from his or her perspective. However, on the flat surfaces of paintings, drawings and text-based works that use the body as subject, the perspectival becomes a matter of embodying someone else’s point of view.
With their renderings of bodies animated in dance, play and chore, Chase and Julien allow us to glimpse the dynamic experiences and rich inner lives of their subjects. Self, meanwhile, zeros in on the black female body as her subject and asks us to grapple with the respective social perceptions that foreground identity construction. Pope.L’s work in this exhibition, however, approaches the body through language in a series of text-based works known as Skin Sets. In these pieces, the body is delineated through the artist’s absurdist phraseology—people of color (blue, green, brown, black and gold) are situated within nonsensical spaces. Always puzzling and, at times, illegible, Pope.L’s Skin Sets make a comment on the legibility and visibility of alienation, especially as it concerns the body in space—a performance that negotiates between self-definition and definition of the self by others.
The works in this exhibition show, through the respective viewpoints of its authors, not only the spaces inhabited by real or symbolic figures but also the complex and multidimensional identities, ideals and anxieties embodied by them. In this, there is in each of these works the incarnation of the “other”—an image of alterity that, paradoxically, is also a mirror that reflects back on the viewer. The worlds we see through these distinct, flattened windows are and are not, at the same time, our own.