November 20, 2019 – January 24, 2020
“Give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth.” – Oscar Wilde
Throughout the history of art, artists have explored the limitlessness of using a mask, metaphorically or physically in their work, in order to amplify, conceal, animate, transform and/or disguise identities. Artists such as Goya, Beckmann and Rembrandt all played with the idea of selfhood through masquerade. The theatrical nature of painting was heightened by the work of Philip Guston, who saw himself as a movie director and actively examined this discourse, still prevalent in today’s world. Whether wrestling with the history of figuration, resuscitating historical trends or discomforting their ideas, several contemporary artists have turned to the practice to investigate issues of power, greed, identity and frustration when the boundaries between real and assumed identities are becoming more faint.
Role Play aims to investigate the work of Philip Guston alongside contemporary artists Somaya Critchlow and Lenz Geerk who take on a performative and theatrical role in the subject matter of their paintings. This exhibition expands on the notions of representational vocabularies of identities and the limitation of how perception is evoked. By subtly implicating themselves in their subjects through the use of “props” and dramatic poses, these artists stimulate a comically morbid storyline imbued with methods of masquerade and role-play leaving the viewer implicated in their narrative.
To coincide with the exhibition, Maximillian William will be hosting a panel discussion on the 14th of January 2020, moderated by editor, curator and writer, Amanda Renshaw, who has been working on an extensive retrospective publication on the work of Philip Guston. The talk will expand on the ideas conceived for the show, and explore the relevance and enduring legacy of influence Guston continues to have on younger generations of artists working today. This exhibition has been curated by gallery director Charlotte Eytan.