Nick Sethi - Olympia - Magic Gallery
July 30th - September 3rd, 2014
Wednesday, July 30th - 6:00-9:00PM
175 Canal Street
New York, NY 10013
Olympia, painted in 1863 by Édouard Manet, depicts a pasty-skinned nude, lying in repose on a bed, being brought flowers by a somewhat stunned female servant. The painting caused much shock and controversy in its time, because like DaVinci’s Mona Lisa, Olympia follows the viewer around the room with a haunting gaze, draped in nothing but select details identifying her as a courtesan – a high class prostitute.
As ubiquitous as sexual deviation and prostitution were throughout the 19th century's upper class, they did not want to be confronted by it eye-to-eye, especially in an art gallery. But Manet didn’t invent this taboo form of expression; similar themes can be traced back to works such as Titian’s Venus of Urbino (painted 150 years prior).
Is the ‘selfie’ culture of today, and the transmission of nude self-portraits amongst young people, an all too familiar form of self-expression?
Artist Nick Sethi’s Olympia serves to humanize this otherwise sexually deviant behavior of our own time through a comprehensive display of this reality in a gallery setting. Utilizing primitive photographic technology on cell phone cameras and laptop webcams, the self-portraits on display offer a strong, sometimes uncomfortable sense of familiarity; both through the quality of the photography as well as the models portrayed in the photos. Often hidden just out of frame – to emphasize anonymity – the subject’s eyes also gaze intensely back at the viewer, whom, at the time of the photo, was the model herself.
Through the careful arrangement of the photos in the gallery, Sethi shapes his poetic narrative. Culled from the 10,000+ photos from which these works are curated, he recreates the model/photographer’s relationship with the camera, and explores his own intellectual inquiry into the digital, personal lives of these subjects.
Nick Sethi (b. 1989) is a NYC-based artist whose work explores the interactions between humans, nature, and technology. A former assistant to photographers Terry Richardson and Jonathan Mannion, Sethi has recently exhibited with Ed. Varie and released over 25 publications, including recent titles with Dashwood Books and Pau Wau Publications.
Magic is artist Gogy Esparza’s multipurpose project space. Part gallery and artist studio, the space is also home to Esparza’s private boutique barbershop. Magic hosted its inaugural exhibition earlier this year with works from artists Peter Sutherland, Maggie Lee and Esparza himself.