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Photography exhibition explores definitions of self through self-portraits

September 06, 2002

TEMPE, Ariz. – Self-portraits by seven photographers from across the world combine to form Subjectivity: Photographs of Themselves, opening at the ASU Art Museum Sept. 21. A free public reception from 7-9 p.m., Sept. 20 will launch the exhibition and the museum’s fall season. The exhibition runs through Jan. 5, 2003.

Subjectivity brings together various cultural views of the individual, with a definite post-modern spin, deconstructing and analyzing the nature of the individual. Artists participating in the exhibition are: Zhao Bandi (born in China), Bob Carey (born in Phoenix), Anthony Goicolea (born in Atlanta), Zhang Huan (born in China), Arno Rafael Minkkinen (born in Finland,) Yasumasa Morimura (born in Japan) and Cindy Sherman (born in New Jersey).

The artists in Subjectivity combine two great art traditions – that of the nude and that of the self-portrait. Postmodern notions of the body that question aspects of gender and species identity also are found in this exhibition.

“As both the photographer and the subject of the photograph, each of these artists expands the idea of self-portrait to explore the definition of the self,” Marilyn Zeitlin, director and chief curator of the ASU Art Museum said. “The face and the body are shaped, costumed and multiplied, creating a theater of identity or a new way to perceive the human form.”

The artists use themselves as their own models to explore or redefine who they are or might be. Theatricality pervades the work in the exhibition.

Zhang Huan incorporates performance intrinsically in his art. His photographs are, in fact, images of his performance art, whether that involves using nude bodies To Raise the Water Level in a Fish Pond, or To Add One Meter to an Unknown Mountain. The images capture the Chinese emphasis on group problem solving, but take it to absurd extremes.

Zhao Bandi is actor, director and producer in work with a strong performative element, playing a variety of roles with a toy panda in humorous pieces that often parody public service announcements while sincerely conveying his message.

Like that of Bandi, Anthony Goicolea’s work reflects the role of film director. Goicolea costumes himself to create an identity and an image. Unlike the other artists in this exhibition, however, he often creates a complex narrative in which he plays multiple figures interacting in a single incident. Many of his images suggest dreams or memories of a darker side of childhood.

Yasumasa Morimura meticulously constructs costume, setting and make-up to recreate himself as cultural icons, both male and female. Among those whose identity he recreates is artist Frida Kahlo, wife of Diego Rivera.

Cindy Sherman also explores the icons of our culture, dressing and posing as various heroines from the golden age of Hollywood, opera and art history. Questions of gender identity arise in another image, as Sherman’s face becomes male, complete with moustache.

Bob Carey shapes his own body and face to create a new and unique species. Zeitlin describes him as “The Bob.” He explores the human face and smile in one piece, turns his body into a machine in another, and uses light to eradicate parts of himself in still another image. Light is also used to great effect in an image where he floats seemingly weightlessly in a tutu – a poignant, dying swan.

Arno Rafael Minkinnen differs from the other artists in this exhibition, in that he uses his body to create an organic architecture. His is the most abstract vocabulary of those in the exhibition. His long limbs function as architectural beams to form bridges or arches, blending with the forms with which he poses.

Subjectivity: Photographs of Themselves is one of five ASU Art Museum exhibitions that are part of the museum’s “Photo Fall” series, highlighting contemporary photography and video.

Artist lectures and gallery talks are scheduled in conjunction with this exhibition. Goicolea will present a slide lecture at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 7, in the north Architecture building (AED 60) at ASU Main, and a gallery talk at noon, Nov. 8, in the ASU Art Museum. Minkkinen will present a gallery talk at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 19, in the ASU Art Museum.

The ASU Art Museum is a division of The Katherine K. Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University. It is located on the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and 10th Street, Tempe. For more information, please call (480) 965-2787 or visit the museum online at

When You Go:
Location: ASU Art Museum, Nelson Fine Arts Center, corner Mill Avenue and 10th Street, Tempe.
Date &Time: Subjectivity: Photographs of Themselves, will run Sept. 21, 2002 – Jan. 5, 2003.
A free public reception is scheduled for 7-9 p.m., Sept. 20.
7:30 p.m., Nov. 7: Slide lecture by Anthony Goicolea, Architecture (AED 60).
Noon, Nov. 8: Gallery talk by Anthony Goicolea, ASU Art Museum.
7:30 p.m., Nov. 19: Gallery talk by Arno Minkkinen, ASU Art Museum.
Parking: Free parking is available in ASU Art Museum-marked spaces at the south end of Tempe Center, located at the NE corner of Mill Ave. and 10th St. Visitors using museum spaces must sign in at the front desk in the lobby of the Nelson Fine Arts Center. Free parking is also available on weekends and after 7 p.m. weeknights in Parking Structure #3 on Myrtle Avenue, Tempe.
Cost: Free 

Media Contact:
Jennifer Pringle