This public gallery talk examines the thematics of bodily presence and absence in a selection of works in the exhibitions Body Armor and Julia Phillips: Failure Detection that raise questions about identity, gender politics, power, and culture.
What does it mean for a body to be present in a work of art? Delilah Montoya and Zadie Xa—two of the four artists featured in Body Armor—highlight the presence of the body through a focus on adornment, whether the tattooed arms of female boxers in Montoya's photographic portraits or the garments that Xa creates for use in her performances. If Montoya's photographs challenge stereotypes surrounding femininity by suggesting that adornment can function as a kind of armor, Xa explores questions of identity construction by collaging together symbols from disparate cultural traditions to produce what she calls “magical garments." In contrast, Julia Phillips’s work suggests dismantled and fragmented pieces of an absent body, corporeal traces that evoke a sense of trauma. Ultimately, all three artists complicate and challenge notions about the relationship between bodies and deeper social structures.
Presented by Eana Kim, Summer 2018 Curatorial Intern, MoMA PS1, and PhD Student in Art History at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU.