Museum Director Marcelle Giving a Press Preview

First Solo U.S. Exhibition of Contemporary Artist Sara Cwynar Comes to Milwaukee Art Museum

Posted on February 5th, 2019

Sara Cwynar: Image Model Muse offers feminist perspectives of consumer culture through a series of photographs and works on film.-

Milwaukee, Wis. – February 5, 2019 – The Milwaukee Art Museum presents Sara Cwynar: Image Model Muse, the contemporary artist’s first solo exhibition in the United States, on view March 8 through July 21, 2019 in the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts at the Museum. The exhibition includes three recent video installations and large-scale photographs created by the Brooklyn-based Cwynar (b. 1985, Vancouver, Canada). The works in the exhibition focuses on the artist’s interest in the creation of consumer desire for objects and how society conceptualizes beauty.

“Cwynar’s multi-disciplinary practice across photography, film, and performance echoes and responds to video and performance art of the 1960s and 1970s, in which the artist is both subject and object of the camera,” said Lisa Sutcliffe, Herzfeld Curator of Photography and Media Arts, Milwaukee Art Museum, and co-curator of the exhibition. “Presenting her full range of work within the context of an encyclopedic collection provides opportunities to examine the historical evolution of standards of beauty and how design plays a role in its construction.

The works on view reveal the artist’s study of the ways in which color, design and commercial goods can represent larger systems of power. By gathering and organizing objects according to color, vintage, material and content, Cwynar traces how they circulate and are valued by society. In this exhibition, she highlights the evolution of objects from idealized to outdated, focusing on complex feelings of both attraction and repulsion.

“I’m trying to dismantle this often-idealized kitsch, or often very nostalgic Western context of photography, which tells us who we think we are, and often with great bias. I’m trying to think of all the different ways that that is a false history,” said Cwynar. I’m trying to be clear about my own ambivalence, and how you can see the way the strategies of design and advertising are working but still be seduced by them.”

The artist’s research-oriented films are meditations on the emotional impact of color, design, and popular imagery, and how desire is created. Museum visitors will have the opportunity to view three of Cwynar’s most recent films—Soft Film (2016), Rose Gold (2017), and Cover Girl (2018). Photographs from the artist’s ongoing Tracy series explore similar themes. Through the juxtaposition of commercial objects and Cwynar’s friend Tracy, who acts as the primary model for the series, Cwynar further shows how images can shape beliefs, values and standards of beauty.

“The Milwaukee Art Museum has always found a balance between exhibiting contemporary and historic art,” said Margaret Andera, interim chief curator and curator of contemporary art, Milwaukee Art Museum. “The opportunity to explore the work of Sara Cwynar alongside the depictions of beauty by a 19th-century French Academic painter in the concurrent Bouguereau & America exhibition, allows visitors to deepen their understanding of beauty from differing points of view and across centuries.”

Image Model Muse joins a long list of Milwaukee Art Museum exhibitions that have showcased a living female artist, including Penelope Umbrico: Future Perfect (2016), Currents 35: Tara Donovan (2012), Taryn Simon: Photographs and Texts (2012), On Site: Chakaia Booker (2010), On Site: Andrea Zittel (2004) and Laura Owens (2003) as well as numerous exhibitions of Wisconsin-born Georgia O’Keeffe during her lifetime.

Sara Cwynar has won numerous awards as an emerging artist, including the 2016 Baloise Prize, which recognizes international artists on the rise.

The exhibition is co-organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and curated by Lisa Sutcliffe, Herzfeld Curator of Photography and Media Arts, Milwaukee Art Museum, and Gabriel Ritter, Curator and Head of Contemporary Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Supporting sponsors include Live Wire Productions.

Exhibitions in the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts are sponsored by the Herzfeld Foundation and Madeleine and David Lubar.

Exhibitions throughout 2019 are made possible by the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Visionaries including John and Murph Burke, Sheldon and Marianne Lubar, Joel and Caran Quadracci, Sue and Bud Selig and Jeff Yabuki and the Yabuki Family Foundation.


Supporting events

Gallery Talks
Tues, 1:30 p.m.
March 12, April 2, May 14

With Lisa Sutcliffe, Herzfeld Curator of Photography and Media Arts

In Conversation: Sara Cwynar and Sheila Heti

Thurs, March 14, 6:15 p.m., Lubar Auditorium

Sara Cwynar will discuss her work with Toronto-based author Sheila Heti. In 2018, the New York Times named Heti, author of Motherhood and How Should a Person Be?, among fifteen writers “shaping the way we read and write fiction in the 21st century.”