Paul Mpagi Sepuya
I am currently in residence at the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago through April 15. Below is a calendar of programing I am participating in here – I hope you can make it if you will be in town. If you would like to visit but cannot make open studio hours, write me directly to set up a visit.
OPEN STUDIO HOURS
Feel free to stop by Studio 5 on the second floor where I will be present for conversation about my work and to meet and chat with anyone who would like to say Hello.
Thursday, March 6: noon – 6 pm
Thursday, March 20: noon – 6pm
Thursday, April 3: noon – 6pm
Sunday, April 13: noon – 3pm
ARTIST TALK WITH Q&A
Wednesday, March 26: 6 – 8pm, more information TBA. I will be discussing my past and present work.
Hyde Park Art Center is located at 5020 South Cornell Ave, Chicago, IL 60615
Two snapshots by Dawoud Bey at the Hyde Park Art Center open studio on Saturday. I will be in residence through April 15, with an artist talk on March 26.
I really love making scale mockups for exhibitions. A sneak peek here at some things for the upcoming Rhodes College show in January.
A productive afternoon and evening of 2nd round editing with Felix and Carl on the book project. Jeremy stopped by to hang out too.
A peek into the main gallery at Franklin Art Works the day before the opening. Installation almost done.
STUDIO WORK opens tomorrow night 11/18 at Franklin Art Works in Minneapolis and I’m really excited to have my first large gallery space to work with on this project. Everything is coming together really well.
Last night over dinner I got to talking with someone and the conversation made me realize I’ve never quite laid out what the hell this whole project is made of. So I’ll say that this body of work is the sum accumulation of photos and images made during a set year at a set space, as well as additional materials that I or other people brought into my space. In addition to the digital c-print work-prints that filled the studio these include books, magazines, note papers, my laser prints on paper of zine/book drafts, push pins, post‐it notes, bookmarks, bricks, store-bought frames, dried orange peels, bread, glass, succulent plants, terra cotta pots, manila envelopes, pens, pencils, clips, glass waterbottle, glass wine bottle, filing boxes, fabric, a sheet of bubble‐wrap…
Five boxes of accumulated material that are sifted and pulled from to create an installation on three tables within the gallery space. The installation is site and time-specific. No two installations are the same. The framed images on the walls are selections pulled from the body of work that function as independent works, presented and framed uniquely for the exhibition at hand.
One of the challenges I’ve had is conveying to viewers, especially online, over the course of several projects is that this is the method that I have been working with since the first project Beloved Object & Amorous Subject, Revisited (2005 – 2007), and across the pieces that followed : Michael, Dialogue (2009), Louisiana Windows (2010), etc. Each body of work is a collection of images or material that is a whole, from which selections must be pulled at the given time and place of the exhibition to create a site and time-specific re-visit of the project. I am a big archive / record keeper, of material made while shooting or in the darkroom/lab or studio that always exists before and after the work selected for exhibition. It plays a big part in the way that I think about my process and why I’m so fascinated by the idea of revisiting that material. It’s been in my ideas but never actually or accurately represented to the viewer in a way that I think it could and should be. This is the first time that I have followed this line through.
Some past installation views of culls from archive bodies of work.
I’m happy for this exhibition opportunity to expand the idea of materials and archive of art making and the continual process of editing, re-assembling meaning and changing presentation.
All images C-prints from digital files, 11 x 14 inches, 2011.
Looking at my the wall of my studio, April 12, 2011. The above images were published in the STUDIO WORK zine. It’s been almost two months since the SMH residency wrapped up and I’ve settled into working on the related book for the Spring/Summer, and spending a lot of time reflecting on the time spent and work made there.
I approached the residency as a project in itself, with several questions : How would I inhabit the space – physically and over time- with people and images ? How would making photographs and portraits in the studio affect the work vs in the domestic spaces where I shot before ?
Overall, I am trying to assess how successful this project has been. Experimenting with and combining staged and casual portraiture, natural light, and digital photography. Perhaps too many things at once?
Up until last year I was primarily working with film, shooting on my medium-format Mamiya RZ with controlled lighting. The element of time was removed through the even-ness of light and space was minimally discribed with minor details at the periphery of the image. A shelf, or plant, or book might intrude into the frame. I chose to work with a digital SLR for the flexibility of limitless shooting (looking and re-looking) without the cost of film, paper and darkroom; and to remove the distance between where work was made, edited and reflected upon. The home (shooting) to darkroom (looking again) to studio (continued looking) was all compressed into the studio.
I became interested in how the introduction of time and accumulation (shifting light and the filling of space) happened in the studio rather than in the home. The studio became an open in a way that my bedroom and the kitchens and bedrooms of friends where I made previous portraits were not. Each additional image built up a description over time of the studio. These images illustrate a space that is constantly adding and discarding material, and being rearranged.
And what about the final work? What exactly am I making?
AA Bronson wrote in the catalogue essay for Evidence of Accumulation:
[Paul] …has emailed me to ask which works I mention in this essay, and I realize that I do not even knwo what is a work and what is an element in a work, or what once was a work but now has been discarded or rephotographed and wrapped back into a larger work, and installation of photographs on a table, for example, with a plant and a heap of books…
I find myself asking the same thing, but it’s a good sort of liminal space to be in. The installation that I initially created from this work for the Studio Museum in Harlem exhibition will be completely re-worked for the Franklin Art Works exhibition that opens next week. What’s created in the studio – the portraits, images, arrangements and gathering of objects – these are all material that, for as long as they remain in the studio space, until they are fixed in an exhibition, remain as such.
The boundaries of this material from the project are the parameters of the residency, it’s dates from last October through this September and anything I made in the studio. Snapshots, formal portraits, photo jobs and commissions, still lifes and observations of the space. The various kinds of things are all given the same weight, there is no hierarchy among the types of images and objects.
The challenge of the exhibition is then carefully defining the relationship between the source material, what is “elevated” to the walls, and the methods of display of the two.
I’ll be working on that and we’ll see how the Franklin Art Works show turns out! I’m looking forward to posting some updates after installation and the opening. More to come…
I met Steven and Jerry in Provincetown in August and they have a frame shop here in Tribeca so now that all the prints are mounted they’re in good hands for being finished off for the Franklin Art Works exhibition next month!
This is only a little more than half of the image material I’m working with for the book!
Studio Visit (s). Text by Ryan Chassee. 2011
Paul uses the phrase “concentric circles” in describing his interest in the diaries of Bloomsbury lesbians. Their overlapping lives and the ways in which their writings overlap fascinate him. I’m not too so sure, but his summation (“They are either gardening or about to kill themselves after a break-up”) makes them sound like a good read.
Concentric circles are on my mind whenever I’ve gone up to Harlem to visit Paul in his studio. I picture, incorrectly, Venn diagrams with grade-school blue and yellow circles and the muddy green oval they have in common. I think about the ways that lives intersect because there, tacked up on the walls and scattered and stacked on the floor, are photographs of men (and the occasional lady) who I have seen in bars and on sidewalks for years, have met at one of Paul’s dinner parties, or worked under. There are portraits of friends, people who I want to meet, and guys I’m just beginning to get to know. It’s a bit like a social network mapped out on the wall.
But I say incorrectly because while writing this I looked up “concentric circles” and discovered that they are, in fact, circles that share the same center. They fit inside of one another, like a bull’s-eye. This strikes me as more apt, because more than a mere representation of Paul’s social world, the accumulation and repetition of images of objects and people in the studio seem to have the power to collapse time in a funny way. The potted succulent and shriveled orange peel that sit on the window ledge are the same ones in the framed photograph that leans beside them. When my boots and shirt get cast aside, they end up slumped over a portrait that Paul took of me months before. While I take my pants off, the Beyonce that we’re listening to is the same Beyonce that we danced to a few nights earlier. Paul asks me to recreate poses struck a week ago by someone I recognize but don’t personally know. I realize I could listen to Beyonce and talk about Beyonce pants-less with Paul all day.
I stared to keep a diary faithfully after picking up a volume of Virginia Woolf’s diaries, but that was even before Paul had told me of his interest in all of her friends. Perhaps this is why we are friends? On my first trip uptown to sit for Paul, he read aloud from one of Virginia Woolf’s letters about the prospect of sitting for Cecil Beaton:
“Really, it’s worse than being bound in Morocco by Lytton, and read by all the tarts of the moment. Which reminds me, do you know a man of that persuasion called Cecil Beaton – who wants to photograph me, and Osbert will comment up on the portrait in a catalogue; and shall I go and be done? I say no: I say I am living perpetually in Sussex. I say, judging from your style and manner (this is what I say to Cecil Beaton) you are a Mere Catamite. Clive who came in yesterday, dropping with sleep after what I understood was an orgy, confirmed this.”
“Catamite,” the second word I’ve looked up while writing this, is old-school for total bottom. Paul and I both love how bitchy Mrs. Woolf is here, but her mood is understandable, because, as Paul explained, Vita Sackville-West is dumping her.
My diary entry from another day that I sat for Paul :
“Hot again, but the air moved. Harlem is oddly timeless with its mansard roofs and people sitting in folding chairs on the sidewalk. I accidentally took the 1 train, which swings too far over to the west side of the island. Sitting for Paul I felt silly and handsome and like I might actually be interesting. I ended up naked, which I had not planned on.”