Lévy Gorvy, New York
September 14 - October 21, 2017
Adrian Piper (2017), Lévy Gorvy’s first solo exhibition with the acclaimed Conceptual artist and philosopher, was a focused presentation including examples from the Mythic Being series (1973–75), It’s Just Art (1980), and Here (an installation work conceived in 2008 and realized for the first time at the gallery). Together, these three bodies of work delve into interrelated themes Piper has explored throughout her career—the intersubjective formation of self, identity, race, and gender—as well as racism, sexism, xenophobia, and competing conceptions of political responsibility. The exhibition comprised a multimedia zone for acts of looking and being looked at, identifying and being identified, to unfold in the here-and-now of what Piper terms “the indexical present.”
Piper’s Mythic Being works range from street performances to newspaper ads, oil crayon on photographs, and posters. Eliciting fears of miscegenation and Black hypersexuality, the Mythic Being is, as Piper explains, “the personification of our subliminal hatreds and dissatisfactions, which blind and enslave us by being subliminal.” Conceived and realized five years after the Mythic Being series, It’s Just Art is a multimedia installation rooted in the artist’s touchstone 1980 performance of the same title. At Lévy Gorvy, the installation included a video reconstruction of the sound and image components of the performance.
The site-specific installation Here, conceived in 2008, was realized for the first time at Lévy Gorvy. It consisted of three laconic statements—“I was here,” “We were here,” “We are here”—engraved in Arabic, English, and Hebrew on three adjoining walls. Presented in a uniform font, the phrases quietly asserted their seemingly timeless presence against the smooth expanse of their respective grounds. Activating a complex interplay of existential absence and presence, Here spoke to the intricacies of the indexical present, implicating the viewer in the here and now and inviting mindful attention to interpersonal dynamics.