American photographer Paul Mpagi Sepuya joins Julia Bryan-Wilson, Doris and Clarence Malo Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at University of California, Berkeley, for an extended conversation about his practice and his work on display in McEvoy Foundation for the Arts’ exhibition Orlando which was on view until shelter at home orders took effect. Sepuya’s work explores ideas of how pictures are made, seen, and circulated through examinations of the studio, queerness, and the intimacy between artist and subject.
While in residency at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in 2019, Sepuya created the photos in Orlando in response to the first paragraph of Virginia Woolf’s novel: a description of the titular character “toying with a shrunken-head trophy of an unnamed colonial campaign in Africa” (Vince Aletti, “Paul Mpagi Sepuya”, Aperture, Summer 2019, #235). The artist’s study of the conventions of portraiture, as well as the legacies of colonial oppression, are also evident in the monograph Paul Mpagi Sepuya recently co-published by Aperture and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and the solo exhibition, Paul Mpagi Sepuya: A conversation
about around pictures, which opened at Vielmetter Los Angeles just prior to the gallery’s temporary closure due to shelter at home orders.
This event is part of the McEvoy Arts at Home initiative to continue celebrating Bay Area creative institutions and artists during the current public health crisis. It is co-produced with the University of California, Berkeley for Arts & Ideas. Orlando, an exhibition inspired by the central themes of Virginia Woolf’s prescient 1928 novel featuring photographs by Paul Mpagi Sepuya among others, is guest curated by Tilda Swinton and organized by Aperture, New York.
ABOUT THE PARTICIPANTS
Paul Mpagi Sepuya is an American photographer whose work explores the conventions of portraiture, the studio, queerness, and the intimacy between artist and subject. His work has been exhibited at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Guggenheim Museum, New York; MOCA Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Photography Chicago; Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Sepuya is the recipient of the Rauschenberg Residency, a Rema Hort Mann Foundation Grant for Emerging Los Angeles Artists, and a Sikkema Fellow Award. His work has been featured in Artforum, Art in America, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Hyperallergic. Sepuya lives and works in New York.
Julia Bryan-Wilson is the Doris and Clarence Malo Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at UC Berkeley; she is also the Director of the Berkeley Arts Research Center. She is the author of three books, most recently Fray: Art and Textile Politics (The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 2017), which was awarded the ASAP Book Prize, the Frank Jewett Mather Award, and the Robert Motherwell Book Award. Bryan-Wilson is Adjunct Curator at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, where in 2019 she co-curated the exhibit Women’s Histories: Artists before 1900. The exhibition she co-curated featuring the art of Cecilia Vicuña, About to Happen, was named one of the five best shows of the year by The Washington Post. She is a 2019-20 Guggenheim Fellow.