SAN FRANCISCO — Lynn Hershman Leeson’s first solo exhibition at San Francisco’s Altman Siegel consists of an old school steel lunchbox with a ceramic mouth inside; a digital print of a cat crossed with a jellyfish; digital prints of cyborgs; and stamps that the artist made along with her picture on them and despatched out as a result of, in her personal phrases, “I wished the federal government to cancel my face.”
Lynn Hershman Leeson: About Face options collages, work, drawings, sculptures, and movies from the final 5 many years of Lynn Hershman Leeson’s profession. Reflecting on how the present took place, the artist describes how she stored seeing faces as she seemed by means of her assortment of labor over time — which is sensible, since a lot of her work is about identification, together with different themes like erasure and time.
“You recognize, it’s like Duchamp mentioned, that in case you’re fortunate you have got three concepts in your lifetime. They’re all the identical concept however they appear totally different,” she mentioned, laughing and including that possibly she solely has two concepts: “[one] utilizing know-how like sound and censors, which is absolutely the place the AI in cyborgs comes from, and possibly the opposite one is about identification and lack of self and the place the blur of actuality ends and what makes one thing fiction.”
This line blurring actuality and fiction was the topic of 1 the artist’s most essential our bodies of labor: a five-year sequence revolving across the creation of the fictional character of Roberta Breitmore. Beginning in 1973, Hershman Leeson carried out Roberta Breitmore going about her each day duties, akin to getting a driver’s license and condo, or placing an advert within the newspaper for a roommate. Methods of altering your face and erasing your identification come up time and again within the present, akin to in “Reconstructing Roberta” (2005), the place marks on her face present the place she can be getting Botox, an eyelid raise, and a dermabrasian peel, amongst different alterations.
Strolling by means of the exhibition earlier than sitting down for an interview, Hershman Leeson pauses in entrance of a wax head with a wig, sensors, and a tape recorder.
“This can be a historic piece as a result of it’s actually the primary media work anyone ever did,” she mentioned. “You stand in entrance of it and in case you pay attention, it talks to you. It was actually about interplay and know-how, however no one had ever mixed sound and interplay earlier than, so no one knew what it was.”
This sculpture, “Self Portrait as One other Particular person” (1965), is from Hershman Leeson’s Respiration Machines sequence, which she made after creating respiratory issues whereas pregnant. The artist recorded her respiration and added the sound to the items, together with snippets of dialogue, like “What’s your identify?” and “I need to know all about you.” Hershman Leeson submitted the piece to the Berkeley Artwork Museum at College of California, Berkeley in 1966 when invited to current work as a part of a showcase of feminine artists. Nevertheless, the Respiration Machines have been met with such ire from the museum’s curator — who, postpone by the disconcerting, respiration, and interrogatory sculptures, instructed the artist that sound wasn’t artwork — that the present closed a day after its opening. Although excessive, it’s an instance of the resistance that Hershman Leeson’s work met for many years.
Now, after years of feeling ignored, Lynn Hershman Leeson is lastly receiving consideration from the artwork world, along with her observe combining artwork, know-how, and efficiency typically known as forward of its time (“The Artist is Prescient” was the headline of a New York Occasions evaluation of her present final yr). Her 2010 documentary, !Girls Artwork Revolution: A Secret History on 40 years of the feminist artwork motion was chosen by MOMA as among the finest documentaries of the yr. In 2014, the ZKM | Middle for Artwork and Media Karlsruhe in Germany mounted the primary main retrospective of her work. Final yr, she had her first solo museum exhibition on the New Museum in New York. And later this month, she can be presenting a brand new video on the Venice Biennial, “Logic Paralyzes the Coronary heart,”(2022) a couple of 61-year-old cyborg.
Hershman Leeson thinks it’s about time, as she has been making and doing issues — akin to exploring sensors, synthetic intelligence, and cyborgs — that nobody else was making or doing for many years. “For years, I couldn’t present my work, I couldn’t get a gallery, and folks in New York wouldn’t take note of me,” she says. “So I feel I deserve it — only for not giving up if nothing else.”
Lynn Hershman Leeson: About Face continues at Altman Siegel (1150 twenty fifth Avenue, San Francisco, California) by means of April 23. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.