Mask or Mirror? A Play of Portraits - No Body

Act 1
Masculine Masquerade
Act 2
Who is She
Act 3
Family Values
Act 4
No Body

No Body consists entirely of works by contemporary artists who create conceptual (or “disguised”) portraits using visual information that is an alternative to conventional figuration. It is thought that the earliest known image to establish ones identity visually was an abstract symbol, the handprint. More recently, in the early 20th century, artists like Picasso began to dismantle traditional portraiture with cubist portraits that did not rely on recognizable likenesses or distinguishing features.



Gary Schnieder, Tania, 1998, toned silver gelatin print, Museum purchase, 2002.38.
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While contemporary portrait artists continue to explore handprints (Gary Schneider) and abstraction (Jim Hodges, Byron Kim, Ree Morton), other images such as DNA profiles (Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle), professional attributes (Nam June Paik), clothing (Charles Le Dray), biographical text (Felix Gonzalez-Torres), and personal belongings (Eleanor Antin) also act as surrogates for the people portrayed. These portraits may tell us little in terms of portraiture's traditional social taskólikenessóbut they reveal extremely intimate details about the identities of their subjects and thus add a challenging new dimension to the question, Mask or Mirror?

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Byron, Lisa, and Emmett (From Garden of Delights), 1998, 3 DNA color photographs, Museum purchase, 2002.37.1-3
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