Starkwhite is pleased to present John Stezaker: Collages from 9 October to 3 November 2018, in association with The Approach, London.
John Stezaker is a celebrated British conceptual artist known for deceptively simple collages that introduce unlikely contrapositions. Drawing on old film stills, old actor headshots and even older postcards, Stezaker makes collages that subvert their original imagery, creating unique and compelling works of art.
Over the course of his career John Stezaker has consistently deployed the power and irreverence of the readymade. Much of his material comes from the golden age of image making and distribution - cinema, advertising's heyday, the rise of personal cameras, and affordable tourism. Fascinated early on by 1970s Spanish photo romans - popular love stories told through a sequence of photographs and accompanying speech bubbles similar to a comic strip - Stezaker began collecting such magazines and discovering a deep fascination for these generic images. In Stezaker's collages glossy Hollywood starlets are spliced with landscapes or find half their face colonised by grafted masculine features in often raw encounters. In other images, voids appear creating more ambiguous imaginary narratives and directing our attention to what has been removed and from where. "There is something very odd, even unnerving about cutting through a photograph," Stezaker says. "It sometimes feels like I am cutting though flesh."
Stezaker's collages pose elegant but uncanny connections between disparate genres. Through repetition, fragmentation, and superimposition, he disrupts existing narratives and instead offers disjointed, dreamlike scenarios. While the juxtapositions may seem intentionally ambivalent and contradictory, an unlikely narrative emerges. Landscapes become suggestive of the psyche of the individual or pair of lovers partly obscured beneath. Images of dark caves, plunging waterfalls, or idyllic vistas allude to the unconscious and suggest a complex emotional landscape underpinning the portraits. By adjusting, inverting and slicing separate pictures together to create unique new works of art, Stezaker explores the subversive force of found images. "I resist subordinating the image to any concept of legible use. My aim is to free it, to let it reveal itself from behind the cloak of familiarity" he comments.
Fascinated by the lure of images, Stezaker's four-decade long career has foreshadowed many of the concerns of our current time. His collages exaggerate, subvert and challenge received notions of glamour, gender, and celebrity. His work re-examines relationships to the photographic image: as documentation of truth, purveyor of memory, and symbol of modern culture. In an era of photoshop, fake news, and image-led social media platforms, we increasingly live in a world more saturated with and controlled by images than ever before. Stezaker's collages know this and draw attention to the ways in which images compel their own interpretations scantly mediated by truth, language, or logic.
Stezaker's work was first introduced to New Zealand audiences through the 2017 exhibition John Stezaker: Lost World at the City Gallery, Wellington. Curated by Robert Leonard, the exhibition was also shown at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu. His exhibition at Starkwhite is the first time his work has been available to New Zealand collectors.
Recent solo exhibitions include: Love, The Approach, London, UK (2018); John Stezaker, Withworth Gallery, Manchester, UK (2017-2018); Lost World, City Gallery Wellington, NZ, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, NZ, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Christchurch, NZ, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, Australia (2017-2018); The Voyeur: Photoroman Collages, 1976-79, Petzel Gallery, New York, USA (2017), Sublime Smoke, Lisa Oppenheimer & John Stezaker, The Annex, London, UK (2017); Paul Nash and the Uncanny Landscape: An Exhibition Curated by John Stezaker, York Art Gallery, York, UK (2017); John Stezaker: Horse, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK (2017); John Stezaker, Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury, UK (2016); John Stezaker and Marcel Broodthaers, Gallery Sofie Van de Velde, Antwerp, Belgium (2016).
Recent group exhibitions include: Picture Fiction, MCA Chicago, USA (2018); Doodle & Disegno, Blain Southern, Berlin, Germany (2018); A Murmur of History, DE LEON, Bath, UK (2018); Journeys with 'The Wasteland', Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK (2018); Fotofest 2018, Houston Biennial, Houston, Texas, USA (2018); The Still Point of the Turning World. Between Photography and Film, FOMU, Antwerp, Belgium (2017); A Green and Pleasant Land British Landscape and the Imagination: 1970s to Now, Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, UK (2017); The Trick Brain, Aishti Foundation, Beirut, Lebanon (2017); 20 Years, The Approach, London UK (2017); Power Masks. The Power of Masks, Wereldmuseum, Rotterdam, Netherlands (2017); Now, Today, Tomorrow and Always, Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, UK (2017); Artists and Postcards, Musee de la Photographie, Charleroi, Belgium (2017); Blackout: Richard Hamilton, Carlo Mollino, John Stezaker, Ibid, Los Angeles, USA (2017); Fully Awake, Blip Blip Blip Gallery, Leeds, UK (2017); Cannibalism? On Appropriation in Art, Sachet, Warsaw, Poland (2017); The End of Collage, Luxembourg & Dayan, London and New York (2017); Flesh, York Art Gallery, York, UK (2016-17); Revolt of the Sage, Blain|Southern, London, UK (2016); The Stolen Image, Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2016); Nigel Greenwood Inc. Ltd: Running a Picture Gallery, Chelsea Space, London, UK (2016); Turning to See: from Van Dyck to Lucien Freud, curated by John Stezaker, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, UK (2016); Collage: Moving Beyond Paper, Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA (2016); On the Immense and Numberless, David Risley Gallery, Copenhagen, Denmark (2016); Terrain: Land Into Art, Hestercombe House & Gardens, Taunton, UK (2016); Fractured, Simon Lee Gallery, Hong Kong, China (2016).
Press release courtesy Starkwhite.