A world of our own
New York-based artist Irene Mamiye has been developing, since the beginning of the 2000s, an extensive body of work that questions the medium of photography as well as its history.
It is interesting to see how, in recent years, artists have strongly tried to redefine the concept of contemporary art. Producing works of art that relate directly with the vertiginous times we face implies a high level of consciousness and requires constant updates when it comes to technology and the available tools needed to stay in touch with the hurricane of information we are surrounded by in our everyday lives.
But why do artists still look back to modernism to try to redefine contemporary times? The reason might begin back in the early 1900s with the beginning of image appropriation. From Duchamp to Pop Art and contemporaries such as Richard Prince, the art language has been resignifying its qualities and possibilities by breaking boundaries and building new bridges. This redefinition allows us to understand the fragility of the categorization of each and every one of the things that frame our lives.
So, in order to understand the times we move in, we need to grasp the basis of what built this contemporary moment and focus on the culture and mass media. This is why Irene Mamiye explores the works of other artists with their unique relation to reality. Through them, she reconstructs a new flow of images that raise issues of ethics, especially in a society such as the American, so strongly attached to the idea of authorship.
“In my work, I seek to illuminate the changing relationship between process and output. The tsunami of digital image generation and the spread of the photographic have conspired to banish the body from production and aesthetic engagement. My work reveals a more complex situation. I use digital programs as if they were physical tools. Distorting, assembling, layering, feathering, scaling and changing opacity are my paintbrushes and the found imagery is my paint. This process deliberately reintroduces familiar strategies of chance, subconscious response and even physical gesture that the computer is conventionally supposed to have banished. Likewise, the resulting outputs (pigment print on canvas, diasec, paper and even glass) explore experiences of surface pioneered by modern artists that have been flattened to nothingness in a digital age,” Mamiye explains.
Irene Mamiye got her MFA in Photography, Video, and Related Media at the School of Visual Arts from New York and has been developing her own visual language for the past several years, positioning herself in the quickly changing world of the art market. Her unique pieces, which have a strong impact because of their movement, color and composition, are considered of high significance. She has produced pieces by appropriating the works of some of the most relevant contemporary artists. Her series recontextualize oeuvres by Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol, both in photography and video. With an outstanding visual technique, Mamiye uses humor and satire as resources to create pieces that question the medium of photography and its history from the analog imagery of the nineteenth century to current digital art. “Some of my influences are the Minimalists and New York School artists as well as Abstract expressionists, also Sherrie Levine and Richard Prince. In the Homage Series, I speak towards the unprecedented assault of photos we are confronted with on a daily basis. As an artist, I am using those images in the same way that artists use found objects, constructing new meaning from them,” replies Mamiye.
The process of her work involves an exhaustive research and design. In her recent body of work, Homage, the process is based on associations with modernism and geometric abstraction. The artist digitally modifies images of the originals and elaborates complex patterns that shape a new aesthetic. In some cases, Mamiye uses social media platforms such as Instagram to gather digital imagery that will juxtapose with the modernist abstractions.
Another artist who Mamiye has paid homage is Ellsworth Kelly. Mamiye explains that through an elaborate study of Kelly’s minimalism and the use of several of his works found in social media, she transforms the paintings with photo editing software that result in a new series of Ellsworth Kelly’s, depicting the artist’s precision. “In a sense, I recover these icons from their ungrounded state as digital phantoms, where they are unstable, existing in wildly various resolutions, sizes and hues. These new works begin where the paintings leave off – in every way. I know that they are only fixed in a physical output, which is another decision I make, and that in digital space they are subject to the same or other degradations and manipulations.”
Another interesting aspect of her production is the relation between the viewer and the artworks. There are multiple possibilities for the observer to feel related to Mamiye’s pieces because they include many references and layers of understanding and provide a new perception of contemporary visual language. Some of her installations engulf and overwhelm the viewers as they discover narratives directly related to digital imaging that transcend what is expected of the photographic medium.
Mamiye is presently exploring the idea of rendering 2D imagery into 3D relief sculptures, as a way of reflecting on the loss of the tactile and the frightening amount of time we spend absorbed in screens, rather than experiencing life in a physical space. This yields a very interesting approach for reinterpreting our own world of images.