For his first solo exhibition with the gallery, photographer Jeffrey Shagawat explores self-portraiture - or in the parlance of the post-Internet age, Selfies - and takes the tradition to provocative new places. Shagawat’s grand Warholian gesture of presenting an entire exhibition of a personal journey places his own image, whether present or implied, into each visual work. Everything is a self-portrait and yet no image really portrays one’s essence. Or does it? Aren’t we etched within every single gesture, emotion and act? And isn’t the universe just a reflection of our own Private Idahos? In the words of the writer/ philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, the ideal lifetime, one that is free of existential nausea, would be “To Do” and while doing to make oneself and be nothing but the self which one has made.
The artist telescopes the notion into a colorful and alternatively sexy and harrowing journey into the nature of photography. A photographer, by dint of his attendance at the moment depicted, becomes his subject and arguably even the photograph itself. Shagawat’s photographic tableaux includes friends and hired models, street denizens and family. In addition, the artist chose to document his struggle with brain cancer a few years ago. Having successfully come out of the nightmare with just a few scars, physical and mental, Shagawat looks at life’s moments as something to be taken in, captured. When I look at my photographs I see myself and what my life was like in that moment, regardless of who or what is in the frame, the artist states. More than mere narcissism, the act of becoming one’s own daily avatar is, as Shagawat shows, something of an act of bravery.
In addition to his photographs' conceptual rigor, they are also beautiful prints unto themselves. Shagawat employs a mixture of techniques, such as silver-tone, expired film, multiple exposures, and various cross processes – to achieve his singular vision. Whether the subject is a bevy of bathing hipsters in a claw foot tube, or his mysterious and beautiful wife, or his own gruff and bearded Self (in Central Park caricatures, in shadow, or in full frontal glory) – Shagawat’s stark and astonishing perspective on the world shines through.
New Jersey-born Shagawat lives and works in New York City. He studied photography at The New School, where he developed an eye for portraiture and urban landscapes. Using vintage cameras, hand- printed processing and film, Shagawat eschews digital manipulation in favor of the traditional analog approach. His work has been displayed in galleries across the U.S. and abroad including Anna Kustera and Freight+Volume in Chelsea; 116 Suffolk in LES, the Parallax Art Fair in the Flatiron, the Salmagundi Club in the West Village; the Scott Eder Gallery in DUMBO ; Produce in Phoenix ; Dream Space Gallery in London ; and Cafe Diskaire Gallery in Lille, France. In Los Angeles, he has shown at Unitard, 72 Degrees & Sunny, UCLA Med School, Melt Down Gallery, and Eat Your Art Out III & IV