Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Mirror Study, 2016.
Foam presents the first solo exhibition by Paul Mpagi Sepuya (born 1982, USA) in Europe. In his exhibition Double Enclosure, Sepuya enters into a dialogue with himself as artist, his subjects and the spectator. He comments on the medium of photography as a construction of longing: the longing to record things, to look, to touch and to keep. Through a combination of draped fabric, careful framing and layered images of existing work, the viewer sees arms, thighs, torsos and hands, but rarely the whole body of the subject. In this way, the spectator is visually challenged to tease apart the construction of the image. With this visual strategy in which he references a homo-erotic visual culture, he explores the productive and critical power of longing as an essential part of his work.
The exhibition shows a free selection of work from series that Sepuya has developed during the past three years. His photographs often contain fragments or compilations from earlier work, which appear in the image as strips or cuttings, overlap the camera lens or are pasted to the mirror of the studio in which he is taking his photos. He firmly distances himself from digital applications by shooting in his studio mirror and bringing his diversity of materials together in a single plane. Thus, his images are not collages in the true sense of the word, but ingenious compositions created in front of the lens and recorded in a single shot. The subjects portrayed, the camera and tripod, and prints of earlier images come together in layered, collage-like compositions that demand an active form of looking. Moreover, by constantly pointing the camera at us as the central motif in the image, Sepuya makes the spectator aware of himself, as the construction of the image not only takes place via the photographer, but is also strongly dependent on the interpretation of the viewer. In this way, Paul Mpagi Sepuya plays a self-assured game of exposure and concealment, an exploration of surface and reflection, lens and mirror, touching and tracing. His provocative approach arouses a feeling of desire, to see that which is hidden.
(Photo © Paul Mpagi Sepuya.)