Stand D3, Regent's Park, London
Stephen Friedman Gallery is delighted to announce its Frieze London 2013 presentation: a new interactive and autobiographical sculpture by American artist Jennifer Rubell.
At eight months pregnant, Rubell posed nude in a traditional odalisque position on a white plinth in the centre of her Brooklyn studio whilst technicians digitally scanned the surface of her entire body. The scan was digitized and her large belly was carved out of the three-dimensional image, leaving an egg-shaped void where the baby would be. The scale of Rubell's body was then increased enough so that a large adult could rest inside the void in the fetal position and this image was then translated into a sculptural form. The result, ‘Portrait of the Artist', is an eight-metre long fiberglass sculpture of Rubell's nude pregnant form, inside of which people are encouraged to pose.
‘Portrait of the Artist' continues Rubell's exploration into various pre-existing roles within the process of viewing art; between viewer and artwork, artwork and institution, viewer and viewer and artist and artwork. In this work, the viewer is offered the opportunity to transgress the traditional viewer/artwork boundary and become part of the work, not only by physically climbing into it, but also by projecting themselves into the iconography of the piece.
Positioning the viewer as the unborn child of the artist suggests a reversal of the power dynamics of viewing by infantilizing and minimizing the viewer in relation to the artist. It is a conflict Rubell has engaged in to enable her to accept the intimidating gaze of audience. With ‘Portrait of the Artist', she is thinking of the viewer as an entity of the artist's creation, completely within the artist's control.
At the same time, the piece is a loving gesture toward an unknown audience: she says "I will nurture you, I will sacrifice all for you, I will do everything in my power on this Earth to give you whatever it is you are looking for. I will love you, whoever you are, whenever you come, whatever you think of me, forever."
While the sculptural mother is dominating and physically impressive, she is also there to surround and protect you. It is an intensely feminine gesture on a monumental, heroic scale.