Art can reflect existing identities and construct new ones. The most intriguing practices do both. Historical surveys invite viewers to question how modes of self-expression change over time. Following the success of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Camp: Notes on Fashion and the Barbican Centre’s Masculinities: Liberation through Photography, the V&A launches Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear in March, examining how designers and artists (including Grace Wales Bonner) have “constructed and performed” masculinity through the ages.
At the MCA Chicago, Nick Cave continues his Soundsuits series, the wearable sculptures which allow performers to animate the artist’s strange fictions: Forothermore is his largest museum show yet. At the Japanese Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale, Kyoto-based collective Dumb Type question shared identity within information societies, presenting an installation on ‘post-truth’. When language loses meaning, identity becomes ever more slippery.
In Los Angeles, two pioneering filmmakers launch major solo exhibitions, both using archival footage to question linear narratives. Together, Ulysses Jenkins (Without Your Interpretation, Hammer Museum) and Garrett Bradley (American Rhapsody, MoCA) ask profound questions of America’s racialised history. Norwegian-Nigerian artist-sociologist Frida Orupabo uses a similar method of fragment assembly, re-purposing colonial-era photographs of Black people. Her disjointed, oddly totemic collages feature at Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland.
Orupabo’s mobile bodies resemble Faith Ringgold’s painted subjects. More than six decades of the Harlem veteran’s works have been brought together in New York for American People (New Museum), including her historic French Collection and new curatorial emphases on race and gender. For a few months in the Spring, the show coincides with Deana Lawson at MoMA PS1, the photographer’s first museum survey.