Anna Marra Contemporanea is pleased to present Martine Gutierrez’s first solo exhibition in Italy: Humannequin, curated by Lorenzo Respi. The exhibition includes the American artist’s video Clubbing and selected photographs from three series – Line Ups, Girl Friends, and Real Dolls – in which she investigates the theme of personal and collective identity.
Gutierrez possesses complete control of the production of each work, from styling costumes and makeup to determining lighting and posing. In the selected photographic series, the artist portrays herself among mannequins or as a mannequin. At first glance, the observer is unable to distinguish the human from the fake.
In the four medium-format photographs from the series Line Ups (2014), Gutierrez is surrounded by mannequins which are uniformly outfitted and made up like the artist. One seems to recognise in these pictures the fashionable life of the stars of Hollywood, pop music, and top models. In reality, the sets and costumes were constructed from humble materials. Re-dressing the same six mannequins in the same studio space, the artist encourages the viewer to reflect on stereotypical feminine characteristics such as glamour, desire, and sensuality.
In the series Girl Friends (2014), the artist portrays herself interacting with mannequins to explore the intimacy and fluid boundaries of relationships between three pairs of imagined women. These small black and white pictures, subdivided into 3 series of 7 photographs each, appear to be familiar yet cinematic scenes.
Real Dolls (2013) is a four-part series of sixteen total small-format colour photographs. In these images, Gutierrez assumes the role of a life-sized sex doll. The dolls are portrayed in domestic environments but arranged in unusual poses. The dolls become an alter ego and replace the human that portrays them to reveal a female figure alone, lifeless and confined to the home. The situations range from beauty to extravagance, from elegance to eccentricity, from desire to brutality.
The video Clubbing (2012) plays an eccentric balancing game between reality and fantasy, in which the artist dances against a sequined background performing multiple couples who simultaneously interact with each other, expressing their gender roles through individual mannerisms.
In both photographic and video works, Martine Gutierrez takes her investigations into the theme of personal and collective identity so deep that she brings into doubt its very meaning. She manipulates her physical self and the mannequins with which she finds herself on the set. Without any possibility of leading their own lives, these mannequins are given complex narratives and common names (Anita, Marie, Rosella, Palma, Mimi, Raquel). Gutierrez mingles among the inanimate women made of plastic and becomes one of them by sharing the same clothes, accessories, make-up, poses, and facial expressions.
The mannequin (male or female) is the medium through which the artist creates an alter ego, the critical consciousness that we all live, experience, and share in society. When Gutierrez poses as a mannequin, she does not feel as if she is acting in a sterile role but rather silently showing that reality is not always as it appears and that it is necessary to look beyond appearances to see truth. Even the backgrounds that frame these existential sets – residential interiors or anthropomorphised exteriors – are profoundly melancholic and at times violent: fiction makes us confront the arrogance of social conventions. Each of Martine G¬utierrez’s photographs testifies to a physical act, a bodily transformation – a performance or a happening – that the artist practices mimetically and studies in its smallest details as she seeks to make us rethink the complexity of social dynamics.
One’s search for their own identity is a fundamental and inalienable right of each person, and of anyone who is seeking their being. Personal self-determination is legitimate and a sign of civilization, though it has yet to be fully legitimised.