“Joke,” Talia Chetrit’s fifth solo show at Kaufmann Repetto, revisits the artist’s photography from the 1990s and presents new work from 2020.
Known for her subversion of formal photographic conventions to reveal the underlying tensions of seeing and being seen, Chetrit mines images from her personal archive, then revisits them with a critical eye. The gap in time allows for a reframing of her subject and an awareness of the photograph’s essential power to bear witness, as time passes, to one’s mortality.
Chetrit’s new work continues her autobiographical approach, prominently featuring her family, her body, and her child as subjects. In alternating between photographing her subjects as willing and as unknowing participants, Chetrit explores the concurrent strains of performativity and vulnerability in being photographed. She further excavates these dynamics with various technical mechanisms that distort her images: subjects are inverted, isolated, obscured, and presented in a state of indeterminacy.
But as the show’s title reveals, nothing is serious, not even mortality. Anonymous Guys (2020), a photograph of two mummified figures in the ruins of Pompeii, appears next to one of Chetrit’s revisited family portraits. Family, it seems, transcends time and inevitable death.
“Joke” showcases Chetrit’s mastery of photography as well as her interventions into subjectivity and narrative, uncovering the ways in which the images are constructed without losing sight of their humanity and humor.
Talia Chetrit, guys, 2020. Inkjet print, 41 x 61 x 1.6 inches. Photo: Gregory Carideo.