Secrets and Lies, an exhibition drawn from the Museum’s collection, offers up a series of disguises, ruses, and revelations. The works on view, including several new acquisitions, evoke a range of evasions and deceptions—whether familial, political, or artistic in nature—moving between private and public life, and realms of fact and fiction. The exhibition borrows its title from Ellen De Meutter’s cryptic painting of two gossiping figures. It may also recall Mike Leigh’s 1996 film of the same name, whose plot hinges on the unexpected reunion of a mother and daughter, exposing themes of class, race, and the nature of family.
Here, Louise Lawler documents the display of art to show how it is embedded in its broader context, which includes the world of commerce: pink and blue wall colors point to respective amounts of funding for health vs. military research. A photograph by Tina Barney pictures a mother and daughter in the bathroom of their upper middle class home, clad in pink bathrobes, caught somewhere between posing and acting. Ramiro Gomez appropriates images from lifestyle magazines that feature similarly upscale homes, painting in the domestic workers whose labor is otherwise erased from such scenes.
Cindy Sherman transforms her own image to project a sporty, over-tanned “West Coast type,” who aspires to an impossible ideal—of the kind also found in glossy magazines.
A number of artists borrow images or content from art history, questioning ideas of authorship and authenticity. Josiah McElheney fabricates an exquisite set of vases, along with a specious narrative surrounding their origins. Yasumasa Morimura replicates a Frida Kahlo self-portrait, convincingly inserting himself into the picture as a means to challenge gendered codes, racialized conventions, and the notion of originality itself. Taken together, works in the exhibition spread secrets even as they expose lies, pointing, perhaps, to more complicated truths.
Additionally, the white cube in the center of the gallery will feature works by Allan Sekula (1951-2013), a renowned photographer, filmmaker, theorist, and critic, who altered the discourse surrounding photography and documentary practice. Sekula insisted on photography’s connection to a world of social relations and political realities, and to this end, his work focused on working people and spaces of labor, as well as protest movements, global trade, and maritime commerce.
Sekula’s Untitled Slide Sequence (1972) depicts workers leaving the General Dynamics Convair Division Aerospace Factory in San Diego at the end of the day. The series of twenty five photographs is reminiscent of the Lumière Brothers’ 1895 film of workers leaving the Lumière factory. Sekula also thought of the series as a “motion study” of the workers, in the manner of photographic sequences produced by Eadweard Muybridge and Étienne-Jules Marey in the late 19th century. Yet if those photographs focused on the actions of an individual, Sekula looks at social context. His sequence offers a more complex picture of his subject than any singular image, incorporating a sense of the workers’ environment and cultural milieu, as well as a specific historical moment of the military-industrial complex.