Stéphanie Solinas. Identité

31 Mar — 13 May 2017 at Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco, United States

18 MARCH 2017
Stéphanie Solinas, Sans titre (M.Bertillion) deux faces, 2011. Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery
Stéphanie Solinas, Sans titre (M.Bertillion) deux faces, 2011. Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery

Stéphanie Solinas: Identité will survey the artist’s compelling work over the past nine years, including photographs, videos, books, and sculptures. Solinas has developed a varied practice that explores identity and its limits, including how we define ourselves and others through the act of seeing. The artist will be present for the opening reception on Friday, March 31, 6-8 pm, and the evening will be full of surprises.

For the artist’s project Dominique Lambert (2004-2010), she sought to catalog the identity of every man and woman in France who shares this very common name. Solinas began by contacting 191 persons named “Dominique Lambert,” and sent questionnaires to the participants in order to find myriad ways to define them as individuals. Each person’s answers were interpreted by a committee comprised of a psychologist, a statistician, a police inspector, and an attorney. The resulting individual profiles were used by the police to create computer-generated portraits. Solinas then sought out and photographed real people who resembled these likenesses. Ultimately, the artwork compiles all these perspectives into a set of 21 books dedicated to a search for identity and questioning the official tools of representation of the individual.

Through her series Traits, the artist also examines how anatomy and facial characteristics may define (or fail to define) a person. Using a large-format camera, the artist photographed young men face-on and in profile, similar to the conventions used in identity cards and mugshots. Solinas then subtly transformed each image by hand to highlight certain facial characteristics by which a person is commonly classified, accentuating and distorting the realistic image to near caricature.

Solinas sees photography both as a medium capable of providing scientific proof and an opportunity to create a fiction. She delves into the history of identity photographs in Sans Titre (M.Bertillon), inspired by Alphonse Bertillon, who invented a systematic method for using portrait photography to recognize individuals in criminal and forensic investigations. In one of her works, Solinas uses facial analysis software to transform Bertillon’s 1893 photographic portrait into a mask-like three-dimensional image in paper.

The artist also considers how photography may be used as an investigative tool, and her recent work researches hidden worlds and unseen realities. Le Pourquoi Pas? (“Why Not?) is a new body of work that includes a video of a conversation between an Icelandic medium and his client’s deceased friend. In related cyanotype photographs, titled Equivalences, Solinas draws on Icelandic lore to search for creatures in the lava fields. By inserting photo-sensitive paper into rock crevices, she creates images of glowing blue and bright white flashes, suggesting sources of life and energy that cannot be captured by a camera.