Sara Cwynar: Apple Red/Grass Green/Sky Blue is the first exhibition of works by New York-based Canadian artist Sara Cwynar (b. 1985, Vancouver, BC) in Los Angeles. Cwynar is known for her photographs and films illustrating how design and popular images work on our psyches and visual strategies infiltrate our consciousness. This presentation focuses on the artist’s recent works in video, comprising the trilogy Red Film (2018), Rose Gold (2017), and Soft Film (2016), and the artist’s new multi-channel installation Glass Life (2021).
Cwynar uses photographic and digital images to expose the failure of their visual trickery over time and their waning power and influence on the public, contending with how power dynamics are embedded in everyday images. Her work highlights how the once familiar becomes unrecognizable, and the fetishized object loses its luster. Cwynar has expanded her practice to include essay-style films, which incorporate performance and text; sculptural constructions that are photographed, printed, tiled, and re-photographed; images taken from darkroom manuals that are deconstructed using a scanner; and stock photographs that are collaged by hand and then re-photographed. The works present new and inventive ways of viewing the world through the lens of consumerism, while also revealing the inherent artifice of photography and moving image, and the difficulty of living and forming selfhood in an age of overwhelming content.
Completed earlier this year, Cwynar’s most recent video installation Glass Life (2021) borrows its title from philosopher Shoshana Zuboff’s book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, in which the term “glass life” refers to the collapse of the boundary between the public and private spheres. Using overlapping narration and images, the six-channel work speaks to the blurred lines between authenticity and its simulation mediated by technology and capitalism.
Red Film (2018) focuses on the color red as emblematic of concepts of beauty. Intercutting images of red lipstick, convertible cars, and examples from classical Western paintings with footage from an anonymous makeup factory and products by the popular Japanese cosmetics company Cézanne, Cwynar illustrates how commodity culture conflates value with notions of truth and beauty.
Rose Gold (2017) grapples with the conflicting nature of desire, or what the artist refers to as the struggle between “the wanting, not the having.” Appropriating the language of advertising in its use of color as a selling point, the video both reflects upon and reproduces the mechanisms behind the manufacturing of desire.
Soft Film (2016) begins with the motif of a velveteen jewelry box and unfolds as a relentless presentation of used, discarded, and thrifted objects to reveal how the relationship between people and objects becomes increasingly flattened and transactional under a consumerist lens.
The exhibition’s daily screening schedule will be available on the museum’s website at theicala.org. Cwynar’s most recent publication, Glass Life, will be available in the ICA LA Museum Shop. Published by Aperture Foundation in 2021, the 200-page book features full-color portraits and stills from Soft Film (2016), Rose Gold (2017), and Red Film (2018); texts by writer Sheila Heti; Legacy Russell, Executive Director and Chief Curator, The Kitchen, New York; and an interview with the artist by Rose Bouthillier, Curator of Exhibitions, Remai Modern, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.