Laurel Nakadate: Photographs, Videos & Performances
Curated by Stuart Horodner
Laurel Nakadate makes art that is emotional and unsettling. The titles of her photographs, videos, and films — A Message to Pretty, Beg for Your Life, Stay the Same Never Change, and 365 Days: A Catalogue of Tears — give you an idea of the human drama that she can create, either working alone or with a diverse bunch of sought-after and happened-upon collaborators. These endeavors explore themes of voyeurism, loneliness, power, and desire. Nakadate has said, “One of the primary motivations at the beginning of this work was going out into the world and meeting strangers. And whether I was meant to be a part of their world or not, I just wanted to spend some time there.” This impulse is most explicit in her productions which feature young women or middle-aged men who reveal themselves as complex creatures filled with anxiety and the need to connect with others.
This exhibition includes many of the works featured in Only the Lonely, Nakadate’s first large-scale museum exhibition at MoMA PS1 in 2011. Most indelible and imposing is a selection of 36 images chosen from her 2011 series 365 Days: A Catalogue of Tears, a rigorous photographic performance, during which the artist documented herself crying each day. She is seen sobbing in her home, in hotels, on planes and trains, clothed or in various states of undress. What becomes clear is that Nakadate is presenting a composite of who she is, and who she can become for the camera: a woman who is haunted, grieving, struggling, wanting, and healing. Her catalogue of accumulated tears offers a testament to getting through it, whatever it is. The artist gives us the when and where of intense emotion, but not why. This is where we come in, fixing our eyes on hers, and imagining the real or imagined events that made her look and feel this way.
In the 2011 Star Portraits series, strangers are led to various isolated locales at nighttime, and photographed with a combination of flash and long exposure. The results offer spot lit figures who stare straight ahead under starry skies. Nakadate seems to be ruminating on her medium’s capacity to fix an image in time, while acknowledging that there is a bigger picture of mass, luminosity, and magnitude to consider.
In Good Morning Sunshine, 2009, Nakadate videotapes several adolescent girls in their bedroom, instructing each to wake up and perform certain tasks. Her voice alternates between aspects of manipulative mother, creepy sorority sister, and skillful seducer. Her demands lead the sleepy and reluctant teenagers to remove their clothing as they sit or stand on floral sheets, propped up by pillows or the occasional teddy bear. Say You Love Me, 2007, and Exorcism in January, 2009, show Nakadate dancing and singing with various men, at risk and in control, as she conjures states of exhilaration and estrangement.
Laurel Nakadate was born in Austin, Texas, and lives and works in New York City. She received her BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Tufts University, and her MFA from Yale University. Her work has been exhibited world-wide, including at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Asia Society, New York; the Reina Sofia, Madrid; and the Berlin Biennial. Only the Lonely, her 2011 ten-year retrospective was organized by MoMA PS1, New York. Her first feature-length film, Stay The Same Never Change, premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and was featured in New Directors/New Films 2009 at The Museum of Modern Art and Lincoln Center, New York. Her second feature, The Wolf Knife, premiered at the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival, and was nominated for a 2010 Gotham Award and a 2011 Independent Spirit Award.
Image: Laurel Nakadate, 365 Days: A Catalogue of Tears (detail), 2010, Type C print, Copyright Laurel Nakadate, Courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York