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Innovation has enhanced the way in which the self is documented, exhumed, and proliferated on the day-to-day. A ‘keeping up with the joneses’-style attention to self portraiture on social media, an embrace of video communication software in the live stream, even the self grooming to meet standards of omnipresent surveillance documentation, or bystander photo-bomb, all keep us constantly rebounding from our subjective experiences back to a meditation on ‘the me’. How does this multiplication of the self impact the expressive artifact—a pure totem of experience Oscar Wilde suggested should only, “reveal beauty and hide the artist?”

As with Van Gogh’s 1889 self portrait and very deliberately tucked away ear, artists ranging from Cindy Sherman to Amalia Ulman, Jan van Eyck to Chuck Close, Frida Khalo to Sadie Benning to Gilbert & George have affirmed the self-portrait as just as much a place to be found as a place to hide and go seek. Likewise, artists from Beuys to Burroughs, Bourgeois to Basquiat, all the way up to Sophie Calle and Mickalene Thomas have all created astounding autobiography using not the slightest glimpse of their own image, forging works as personal and historical as they are remiss of their own face and form, hiding in plain sight, their reflection dim yet powerful.

Consider the black mirror, a looking glass meant for aesthetic reflection—a way to isolate a subject—once used by Old Masters in landscape painting and portraiture. The apparatus was used for seeing the world in its most basic attributes, enhancing some features, obscuring others.

Likewise, what formal practices of artists today walk this line between showing/not telling or telling/not showing, the tight-walk dance between seven veils, showing just enough skin to be personal and throwing just enough shade to transcend?

Curators might consider the black mirrors of Today, dualities of the artist revealing too much or not enough of the self. The aesthetic black mirrors of creative process may be subject for examination—artworks made under pseudonym, underpainting counterfeits of your mentors, family photos taken expressionistically out of focus, collaged letters from a breakup. Additionally, modern black mirrors in the physical include our out-of-pocket looking glass, an Apple® a day, that Narcissus pond of 1’s and 0’s. Sext acts are a Voodoo doll of signifier/signified, our avatars bordering on occult, a world we wish into our devices a kind of crystal ball.

Through whichever lens, SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2017 will exhibit autobiographical artworks that engage, defy or uphold the idea that art should ‘hide the artist’.

Required Reading (kinda):

The Claude Glass: Use and Meaning of the Black Mirror in Western Art by Arnaud Maillet 

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Selected Essays from Dept. of Corrections by Bob Nickas

1) Passages: On Kawara (1933-2014)

2) The Curse of Leigh Bowery

3) The Un-Painter of Modern Life

Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde 1943-1978 by P. Adams Sitney, chapter 4.