Nico belted out: "I'll be your mirror" in the eponymous Velvet Underground song, and continued by promising to "reflect what you are in case you don't know." When Nico made the offhand offer: " Lou, I'll be your mirror" to songwriter Lou Reed, she inspired the formation of an iconic rock lullaby. It was a gesture that quickly turned sour. Recording the song, Nico broke into tears after repeated bullying from the rest of the band, before she achieved the correct deadpan pitch. Indeed, the Teutonic chanteuse and Lou Reed fell out soon after, although the band's replacement singer for Nico uncannily imitated her unique performance for many years. In turn, the album "The Velvet Underground & Nico" endlessly emulated by adoring punk, indie, new wave and goth bands, has become a mirror that refracts endlessly through the decades inspiring generations of musicians.
The exhibition I'll Be Your Mirror explores the condition of mimicry and the appearance of the doppelganger. The double, look-a-like, impersonator and mimic all hold a capacity to destabilize us on a deep-seated level. They can be a harbinger of evil, but also have been rendered as a being of benign reassurance. Under the analytical eye of visual artists, the idea of the double or doubling can drive us to contemplate our very humanity. For example, a celebrity becomes a mirror for a set of yearnings, neuroses and libidinal flows; the mask of their fame --a surface reflecting back our grainy quotidian reality with a glossy sheen. Conversely, the antics of a double can shatter this mirror, revealing what we truly are.
This exhibition explores a variety of mirrored selves, doubles and doppelgangers Charles Ray's photographs: Most Beautiful Woman in The World, 1993, depicting model Tatjana Patitz, constitutes a sly retake of Ray Charles performance of "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World" and the vexing confusion of identities that dogged references of the sculptor during the early period of his career. (Try to Google the two names even today!) Slater Bradley's doppelganger, and artistic collaborator, Benjamin Brock's, In Dark Night of the Soul, 2005 steps through the Natural History Museum New York in a space suit carrying a music box, playing Beethoven's emotive Moonlight Sonata. B.J.Vogt has a more slapstick rendition of sibling rivalry, near identical beings that may look similar, but ultimately have separate destinies. The two figures begin to resemble each other and resent the other's presence. What I hope emerges through I'll Be Your Mirror is a multiplying reflection, an infinite mirror that leads precisely to the murky deep of the unconscious mind. –Daniel McGrath
Daniel McGrath is an adjunct professor in the art department at Webster University and University of Missouri St. Louis in St. Louis. In 2005, he received his Master of Arts from King's College London – University of London. He is co-director of Isolation Room/Gallery Kit. He is a contributing art writer for Art Papers, Art US and St. Louis Magazine. McGrath lives and works between Oxford, United Kingdom and St. Louis, Missouri.