This exhibit by Stephanie Syjuco features works across a wide swath of media that touch on the legacy of historical colonialism, fictional fabrications, and perceptual studies of photographic “neutrality.” Syjuco employs unlikely materials with ingenious vision—found 3-D models, publicly-sourced audio files, “ethnic” carpets downloaded from eBay, photo shoots staged with mass-produced fashion garments, and a large-scale “still life” installation—to create a perceptual clash that bridges historical representation with contemporary forms.
Syjuco splits the exhibition into two sections: the front gallery focuses on a stark black and white palette, while the back gallery contains a physical collage of colorful images and objects that attempts to “color calibrate” itself against a giant neutral gray backdrop. In the black and white area, framed photographic images from the artist’s Cargo Cults series revisit historical ethnographic studio portraiture via fictional display. Syjuco used mass-manufactured goods purchased from American shopping malls and restyled them to highlight the popular fantasies associated with the current craze for ethnic patterns. Purchased on credit cards and returned for full refund after the photoshoots, the items hail from the distant lands of Forever21, H&M, American Apparel, Urban Outfitters, Target, The Gap, and more. The graphic patterning creates a disruptive outline, shifting the viewer’s attention from foreground to background in an attempt to “find” the subject.
Syjuco’s digitally printed fabric works, Lossy Artifacts (RIPs), exploit the “problem” of digital degradation of compressed computer files (referred to as ‘lossy’ in computer speak). The fabric features images of Turkish, Afghan, and Pakistani woven rugs, downloaded mostly from eBay. Blown up and heavily pixelated, the vertigo produced by the works destabilize the original digital image files and bring to physical form cultural items squeezed through internet channels and global trading routes.
The gallery’s dedicated media room features Syjuco’s Ornament + Crime (Redux), (2013), a 22-minute video from the artist’s Dazzle Camouflage series. This project positions the WWI military tactic of wrapping battleships in a graphic black-and-white pattern in a contemporary framework to consider globalization, migration, historical trauma and colonialism. Using anonymously-sourced digital files from the 3-D modeling program SketchUp, Syjuco’s video takes as its starting point architect Le Corbusier’s 1931 iconic building, Villa Savoye, located outside of Paris.
The haunting, animated walk-through of the Modernist structure is overtaken with disruptive black-and-white graphics of folk patterns culled from France’s prior colonial era: Moroccan, Algerian and Vietnamese textiles. Found sound files recorded from the streets of the ex-colonies provide a dislocated, invisible audio backdrop. As a historical mash-up of publicly sourced files, this new version of Villa Savoye attempts to transcribe the colonial and cultural history of a Western icon back upon itself as if it were a body to be read and re-read.
Stephanie Syjuco: Neutral Calibration Studies (Ornament + Crime)
Exhibition Dates: June 4 – August 27, 2016
Opening Reception: Saturday, June 4, 2016, from 3 – 5 pm, with an artist talk at 2:30 pm
Catharine Clark Gallery
248 Utah Street
San Francisco, CA 94103