“Laurel Nakadate: Strangers and Relations” opens at the University Art Gallery

  • on 18 Jan 2014
  • University Art Gallery
Laurel Nakadate

The University Art Gallery presents Laurel Nakadate: Strangers and Relations, an exhibition of large-scale color portrait photographs drawn from Nakadate’s Star Portraits and Relations series. Records of first-time encounters, taken at night in isolated locations, lit by moonlight and a single handheld flashlight, these photographs construct fragile, intimate relationships between artist, subject, and viewer. The exhibit will be on view January 18 to April 6. Nakadate will speak about her work at 4:30 p.m. April 4 in Convocation Hall, followed by a reception. In association with the exhibition, the Friends of the University Art Gallery will present a screening of the feature length film The Wolf Knife (2010), written and directed by Nakadate, at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25 in the SUT.

During the summer of 2011, Laurel Nakadate began to photograph strangers for the Star Portraits series, inviting friends of friends, Facebook “friends,” and curious members of the online community to meet her at night in remote corners of the United States and Europe. During the same time period, Nakadate also undertook DNA and genealogical research, discovering genetic ties to the descendants of slaves and pilgrims, the McCoy clan, and the early Protestant feminist Anne Hutchinson, among others. She contacted distant relatives on DNA websites, and arranged to meet them, also at night, in order to make their portraits for Relations. (Above, Carolina Beach, North Carolina #1, 2013, Type-C print, 40 x 60 inches. Courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York)

Her subjects, whether distant relatives or Internet contacts, appeared for their portraits without prior instructions and chose their own clothing. The results are photographic performances that record the instant that the artist and her subjects see each other for the first time, capturing the connection of strangers. This connection has been an important part of Nakadate’s work since her earliest video pieces, in which she recorded herself dancing or singing with strangers met through chance encounters. In the photographs of Strangers and Relations, Nakadate does not appear in front of the camera herself, except in the DNA that she shares with her diverse subjects.

Laurel Nakadate was born in Austin, Texas, and raised in Ames, Iowa. While completing her MFA in photography at Yale University, she began to create provocative works in video, photography, performance and film that challenge conventional perceptions of power, seduction, tenderness and trust. She has participated in solo and group exhibitions at museums and galleries worldwide including a critically acclaimed 10-year survey Laurel Nakadate: Only the Lonely at MoMA PS 1 in 2011. Her works are in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Cincinnati Art Museum; the Yale University Art Gallery; the Princeton University Art Museum; the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College; the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; and other distinguished institutions.

The artist has also received widespread acclaim for two feature-length films, Stay the Same Never Change, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, and The Wolf Knife (2010), which was nominated for Gotham and Independent Spirit Awards and was the featured work in The Believer Magazine’s 2012 annual film issue.