Meet the artist exploring race, gender and identity through her collages.
Red, White & You, 2018. Found photograph and vintage wallpaper on panel, 20 x 16 x 2 inches each. Courtesy of Genevieve Gaignard and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles.
Prince. The 1968 Olympics black power salute. A pack of retro Kool cigarettes. In Genevieve Gaignard’s work, every careful reference is intentional, weighted and thick with meaning.
Through her vintage-look collages, the LA-based artist explores themes of femininity, class, her own mixed-race identity and their points of intersection. Characterised by a crisp, cartoon-like style, the poignant images overlap and interact on backgrounds of faded Victorian wallpaper.
As well as vivid collages, her self-portraits and full-room installations also point the finger at other societal faults. A fully-decorated mock bathroom is decked out in dollar bill towels and crammed with skin-bleaching products. Another installation sees a wall of snow-white faces, with a mirror in the centre of it, designed to darken the viewers face.
We chatted to the outspoken artist about her evocative work…
Call for Back Up, 2018. Found images and vintage wallpaper on panel, 24 x 18 x 2 inches. Courtesy of Genevieve Gaignard and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles.
Hi Genevieve! What are you trying to say through your art?
I want to use my platform as an artist to critique how we are programmed to fit into this box of “normal.” If we can shed that way of thinking, then I believe we can co-exist in a more productive way. I’d like to spark conversations that deconstruct the ways in which we talk about – or ignore – issues of race and racism in America.
What attracted you to doing full-room installations? The detail!
I didn’t set out with the intent to create installations. I just kind of instinctually felt the need to put my work into these specific environments. I am fascinated by what people choose to surround themselves with in their domestic spaces and the objects that make a place feel like home, so in this way installation work felt like a very natural progression.
Tell us about your bathroom installation “Be More” (see below)…
In “Be More”, the bathroom installation, I am exploring the consumption and consumerism within the beauty industry. As women, we are constantly bombarded with messages to “be more this” and “be more that”, and in terms of the title, I liked the play on words as a double entendre. “Be More” can be read as inspirational or negatively, like you aren’t enough. For the installation itself, I am trying to show the viewer a familiar space, but one that offers layers.
What’s your favourite piece of work and why?
It’s hard to pick a single piece, but I’m very happy with the flow and interaction between the photographs “Rita & Frida” and “Keep It 100”, and the installations “Don’t Wish Me Well” and “Got You Covered”.
(LEFT) Life Is But A Dream, 2018. Found images and vintage wallpaper on panel, 30 x 20 x 2 inches. Courtesy of Genevieve Gaignard and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles.
(RIGHT) Wet Hot American Summer, 2018. Found images and vintage wallpaper on panel, 36 x 24 x 2 inches. Courtesy of Genevieve Gaignard and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles.
Do you think art is an important route to self-discovery?
In life, it can be difficult for me to verbally articulate the things I want to convey, but visual artists have access to a different type of language. I think it’s allowed me to have a voice and, in turn, for other people to see themselves, or parts of their story, in my work.
Why the wallpaper-style collages?
I grew up in an old house and all the rooms had wallpaper. I hated the wallpaper in my bedroom specifically – it had bald eagles and Liberty Bells on it – so I would cut out images from magazines and collage on top. When collage started becoming part of my practice, I wasn’t consciously thinking of that time, but looking back it makes sense. Today, much of my collage work include remnants of the vintage wallpaper used in my installations, which is, I guess, in part a reference to my personal past, layered with old LIFE, Ebony, and Jet magazines. I like the magic of taking from the past and giving it a renewed presence.
How do your photographs inform your collage and installation work? And visa versa?
I want to give the viewer the dots, but I want them to do the connecting.
What’s next for you? What issues will you tackle next?
I’ve got a few different projects happening throughout the fall, including group exhibitions at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. I am also preparing for a solo exhibition in the Spring of 2019 at Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago. I feel like I’m still only scratching the surface of the issues I address in my work, so I plan to continue exploring subjects surrounding race, class, and gender.
Genevieve Gaignard’s solo show, “Counterfeit Currency” is on view at the Flag Art Foundation in NYC until 10 August. Her work is also on view at “Fun House” at Fitzrovia’s Josh Lilley Gallery.
(LEFT) She’s So Articulate, 2018. Found images and vintage wallpaper on panel, 30 x 20 x 2 inches. Courtesy of Genevieve Gaignard and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles.
(RIGHT) Black Watch, 2018. Found images and vintage wallpaper on panel, 36 x 24 x 2 inches. Courtesy of Genevieve Gaignard and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles.
Be More, 2018. Room-scale installation by Genevieve Gaignard. Courtesy of artist and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles.
Seeing Is Believing, 2018. Room-scale installation by Genevieve Gaignard. Courtesy of artist and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles.