Currently on view at its Chelsea exhibition space, Mitchell-Innes & Nash is currently presenting 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. Focusing on a selection of works that tease and turn the human form through a variety of perspectives and varied iterations, the show is a fascinating investigation of how the human form exists in contemporary art, and how it might be incorporated in the future.
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. Here, the body is turned towards these approaches, but simultaneously retuned as a sort of representative element in pursuit of a range of affects. With their renderings of bodies animated in dance, play and chore, for instance, both Chase and Julien allow the viewer a moment to experience dynamic action and joy as a borrowed state, turning kinetic energy into a frozen portrait of it, and grafted onto the body as paint.
By contrast, Self’s work focuses in particular on the black female body as her subject, challenging the viewer to delve into its constructions both socially and culturally. Pope.L moves towards a similar concept, but does it through language, departing from pictorial representation in favor of the artist’s trademark absurdist phraseology. Puzzling and even, at times, illegible, Pope.L’s works 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.
— C. Reinhardt
“Embodiment” [Mitchell-Innes & Nash]