press release

This major exhibition examines how contemporary artists have dealt with the theme of self representation. It considers ideas about construction, interpretation, artifice and role-play through the lens of selected international and Australian artists from the 1970s to the present, alongside significant contextual imagery from the early part of the 20th century. The exhibition includes ‘auto portraits’ in which elements of narrative and biography figure strongly, as well as portraits which use props, clues or symbols to suggest a sense of self, real or false. Masks, costume and prosthetic devices are used to construct individual identity for the viewer, and through these works the idea of the ‘self’ is actively questioned. Other works incorporate the body - the shadow, doubling, and absence rather than presence, suggesting the mutability of the self and its representation in art. Combining critical enquiry with irony, pathos and a sense of play, this exhibition presents a selection of the many approaches that artists have taken towards self representation in recent years.

Also included are Cindy Sherman’s (USA) earliest studio photographs alongside landmark experimental works in photography, film and video by Ana Mendieta (Cuba), Bas Jan Ader (The Netherlands) and Francesca Woodman (USA), as well as the provocative Surrealist imagery of Claude Cahun (France) from the 1920s-30s. Also featured are Samuel Fosso (Cameroon), Ronnie van Hout (NZ), Martin Kippenberger (Germany), Tracey Rose (South Africa), and Tim Noble & Sue Webster (UK).

Also part of Masquerade is recent work by Mike Parr (Australia) and Sam Taylor-Wood (UK) whose wider practices feature in concurrent MCA solo projects, linking all four levels of the Museum in a wider portraiture focus for the Autumn Season.

This exhibition complements the Art Gallery of NSW / National Portrait Gallery, London historical survey of self-portraiture through painting. It represents an exciting opportunity for Australian viewers to see historical and contemporary perspectives on self representation in art, across media. It is accompanied by a substantial MCA catalogue publication and public programs.


Representation and the self in contemporary art

mit Cindy Sherman, Ana Mendieta, Bas Jan Ader, Francesca Woodman, Claude Cahun, Samuel Foss, Ronnie van Hout, Martin Kippenberger, Tracey Rose, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Mike Parr, Sam Taylor-Wood ...