Shulamit Nazarian is pleased to announce Genevieve Gaignard: “Us Only,” the artist’s second solo show in Los Angeles and her first exhibition with the gallery. Gaignard, a 2014 graduate of Yale University School of Art with an MFA in Photography, creates site-specific installations dominated by the photographic medium to evoke a nostalgia of place and identity that recall specific geographies and histories. In this new body of work, Gaignard uses video, collage, photography and ready-made objects to build upon her practice of character based self-portraiture and explore the complexities of race and gender.
For “Us Only,” the artist has created three new characters that stand in for exaggerated fragments of herself: a young, biracial, East Coast transplant, raised by a mother obsessed with thrifting and antiquing. Working with Susan Sontag’s notion that “Camp is the glorification of the character,” Gaignard is influenced by drag culture to transform into her various guises. In doing so, she maximizes identifiable traits as part of her performance so that we may rethink their function and value, just as the male Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura slips into the guises of silver screen sirens ranging from Ingrid Berman to Audrey Hepburn in order to question the normative ideas of a dominant culture. In The 99-cent Store (all works 2015), Gaignard stands awkwardly in a girlish cat sweater and puffy pink moon boots against the backdrop of a logo-riddled 99-cent store window. Hoodrat Thangs has the artist taking on the complete opposite affect—standing confidently contrapposto, her hair is in braids wrapped under a crown of fabric as she juts out her chin defiantly and assuredly. Self-consciously sexy in Pallets and Pepsi, she brushes a strand of blond hair back into its bouffant. The lush, bold colors and highly specific props and costuming are kitschy and campy, conjuring another Sontag decree, “… many of the objects prized by Camp are old-fashioned, out-of-date, démodé.” Gaignard stylizes and distorts the coveted aspects of femininity and magnifies stereotypes of racial and cultural identification to their most ludicrous ends in order to dislocate entrenched perceptions.
Photographed and pictured in exterior, public settings, the three characters also have interior “rooms” within the gallery, in which Gaignard reveals the private domestic space and mental interiority of the personas. Splayed out and detailed for the audience, the viewer assesses and judges the complex characters. This process is parallel to Gaignard’s own sense of self, wherein she navigates life through the eyes of others—in particular as it relates to her blackness. With its investigation of racial dynamics and preconceptions, the work is in part a physical reimagining of works such as Self-Portrait Exaggerating my Negroid Features (1981) by Adrian Piper and touches upon issues brought up in Piper’s 1992 essay “Passing for White, Passing for Black.”
Central to the installation is a water fountain, a reference to Jim Crow-era segregationist policies. But, as the title suggests, the fountain is for “Us Only.”
Genevieve Gaignard (b. 1981 Orange, Massachusetts) has exhibited at The Cabin L.A. and Diane Rosenstein in Los Angeles and the FLAG Art Foundation in New York. She has participated in international auctions at Piasa auction house in Paris. Gaignard lives and works in LA.