Cécile B. Evans
In 1964 Esquire editors Robert Brenton and David Newman abandoned established affective posturing in favour of ‘what goes on in your head, really, and in your heart, really’. Cécile B. Evans’ ‘Lower Pop’ brings together collage, sculpture, and photographic works that take this ‘New Sentimentality’ as their starting point.
‘At the moment, we exist in a culture that lets me use very different values to refer to the same emotions… where it’s as appropriate to relate loss to an Aaliyah song as it is to do so with Barthes’ Mourning Diary, and either can be done sincerely or ironically.’
Artist Profile – Rhizome
In the central work, also titled ‘Lower Pop’, an unnamed black and white portrait hangs in front of a photographic backdrop, its face covered (Baldessari-like) by a pure blue dot. A scattering of green vinyl salad leaves completes this highly stylized mise-en-scène that anticipates the mediation of the camera. The backdrop shares its ‘dust pink’ palette with the set design and costumes that Evan created for Bold Tendencies the previous year, one that the artist locates in a range of art and pop culture sources – from ‘Splendor in the Grass’ to Franz West.
‘Franz West has said the pink used in many of his aluminum sculptures was intended as an “outcry to nature”. In Italian, a ‘romanzo rosa’ is a sentimental novel marketed to women and often parodied. In contemporary culture the color pink and the act of sentiment have developed connotations of weakness and artificiality in parallel.’
The artist has described the mediations of new media art as a shift in authorship akin to ancient traditions of oral history, one that brings ‘a touch of magic back into the equation.’ ‘Braille Collages’ continue her idiosyncratic encoding of nationalistic imagery and pop culture within new languages and materials. Pairing sound stage sunsets with silhouettes derived from film stills, each composition is ‘subtitled’ in braille with lines from Kim Jong Il’s ‘On Cinema and Directing’. These wide-ranging elements are brought together to form a new dynamic whole – the spectacle of the nail art gem braille for instance sits sharply at odds with the utility of a writing system used by blind and low vision individuals. By simultaneously interpreting and obfuscating their source material the works flatten visual hierarchies, both of media and contemporary art.
In ‘A Moving Holographic Film’ three chrome fans blow iridescent ribbons of holographic film to form a 3D axis. The artist has previously employed a born-digital holographic pop star Yowane Haku as mascot for her limited edition beauty oil ‘Softness’, created with Studio Leigh in 2014. This sculpture instead rearranges the machinery that allows holographs to ‘mirror and and undermine the emotional and physical states of their subject’. Rather than magically imbuing digital creations with their particular ‘airs’, the apparatus puts forth instead simply air. This interest in the productive possibilities of mistranslation can be found across the artist’s oeuvre. ‘The Brightness’ (2013), for example, centres on an interview around phantom limb syndrome, in which the brain and nervous system endeavour to ‘render’ an absent appendage.
‘Lower Pop’ is an ode to the advent of the postmodern audience and the recursivity of representation it gradually came to demand. Splicing highly codified aesthetics of parody and earnestness “in an inseparable bundle that can only be described as sentimental,” ‘Lower Pop’ is an eclectic compendium of emotional content spanning time and genre.
Cécile B. Evans (b. 1983, Cleveland) is an artist living and working in London and Berlin. She originally trained as an actor at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Selected solo exhibitions include Tate Liverpool, 2016; Kunsthalle Winterthur, Winterthur, 2016; Barbara Seiler Galerie, Zurich, 2016; Bielefelder Kunstverein, Bielefeld, 2016; Seventeen, London, 2015; Serpentine Gallery, London, 2014. Recent group shows include Moscow Museum of Modern Art, 2016; Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco, 2016; Peres Projects, Berlin, 2016, Berlin; 9th Berlin Biennale, 2016; Museum of Contemporary Art, Roskilde, 2016; 20th Biennale of Sydney, 2016; Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, 2016; Nina Johnson, Miami, 2015; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 2015; DREI, Cologne, 2015; Fridericianum, Kassel, 2015. Evans was nominated for the Future Generation Art Prize in 2014 and was awarded the Palais de Tokyo Push Your Art Prize in 2013 and the Frieze Art Fair Emdash Award in 2012. Her films have been screened at Serpentine Cinema (London), Grand Century (New York), BFI (London), Hamburg Film Festival, and Art Basel Miami Beach.