This is Grzeszykowska’s first solo show in New York in over five years, and it features work in multiple media from the artist’s art-historically conscious practice centered around the body, identity, and memory. The divided exhibition title No/Body refers to the organization of the show across the two galleries: the works in the “No” section, at Lyles & King, reference negation – of the body, idea, image, and medium – while the works in “Body,” at 11R, posit the body in different forms.
Grzeszykowska’s ontological exercises manifest through techniques of inversion, fragmentation, and replacement, and adopt visual themes from the worlds of illusion, theater, and film. Mindful of the traditions informing her work, Grzeszykowska also locates her feminist, bodily-focused practice among such artists as Cindy Sherman, Ana Mendieta, and Alina Szapocznikow. For the photographs from Selfie, at 11R, Grzeszykowska fashions doll parts from pigskin, capturing them in a naturalistic “selfie,” with the animal body reconstituted as her avatar. The presence of the artist’s own hands in the images, applying touches to the doll or holding up parts for observation, reinforces the connection between Grzeszykowska and the stand-in, and it points to the refined fabrication behind the object’s decomposed appearance. While the doll plays the artist in the “selfies,” in Halina, Grzeszykowska simultaneously plays both artist and subject. Here, Grzeszykowska replaces Halina Zamecznik, wife of Wojciech Zamecznik and subject of his original photographs, with a collage of her own nude body. Because Grzeszykowska has taken over Zamecznik’s intimate pictures, and because it is explicitly she who triggers the shutter, the substitution empowers the subject, contesting the historical passivity of the female nude. Elsewhere in the gallery, the doll-like Francizska 2024 proposes how the artist’s daughter might appear in 2024, older and in a future world, and two leather heads (Skin Heads), made of the same material as the “selfie” parts, suggest the materialization of the photographed avatar. Finally, two videos consider the body’s autonomy: Headache, in which disembodied limbs from the artist’s exploded body attack her head and reassemble into an inhuman form, and Bolimorfia, which comprises continually-multiplying scenes of mechanistic choreography.
These assertions of body stand opposite their denial and inversion in the works at Lyles & King. In Negative Book, Grzeszykowska paints her body black so as to appear bright in the exhibited negative image. These suspect images, obscure, spectral, and unreal in appearance, call attention to the gap between the reality photography purports to capture and the photographic process itself. Though Grzeszykowska stands out vividly in each scene, especially when in contrast with other figures, the artifice of the image defeats any suggestion of intimacy or invitation to identify with the subject. Instead, Grzeszykowska’s procedure emphasizes her isolation from both the viewer and the scene she inhabits. In contrast to these startling negatives, in Negative Make Up, the juxtaposition of the negative, which seems true, and positive, which reveals the deceit, demonstrates how the makeup masks a semblance or vice versa – how, via photography, a convincing illusion of reality might be forged. Accompanying these photographs is Skin Doll, a black leather “negative” of Francizska, as well as the videos Negative Process, which elucidates the making of the negative works, and Hymn, which merges the personal and universal by initially setting its performance to a song by the Polish writer Dorota Maslowska, then substituting the soundtrack with a piano piece composed and played by the artist’s daughter.