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Paul Mpagi Sepuya

A conversation about around pictures

March 14July 25, 2020

This image illustrates a link to the exhibition titled Paul Mpagi Sepuya: A conversation <strike>about</strike> around pictures

About this exhibition

Vielmetter Los Angeles is thrilled to announce our first solo exhibition with Los Angeles-based artist Paul Mpagi Sepuya, A conversation about around pictures. These new works, made in Sepuya’s Los Angeles studio between 2017 and early 2020 represent a subtle evolution of the artist’s thoughts about how pictures are made, seen, and circulated. In several of the works on view, multiple images of alternate points of view appear in the on screens of sitters’ and collaborators’ iPhones, reflected in the mirror that is the technical focus of all of Sepuya’s photographs. In others, the focus is on the space of the studio itself, rendered strange and indeterminate by multiple reflections and a proliferation of images in the form of test prints adhered to the wall, arranged on tables, or otherwise visible in the space of the image. Following his participation in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, where Sepuya included not only images made by his camera in his studio, but also images made by other artists in their cameras in his studio, several potential conversations around pictures emerge in this body of work.

One genesis of this exhibition is the work Model Study (0X5A4029), 2017, once an outtake from a previous group of photographs. Sepuya describes this image as “…a medium-scale work. At 60 x 40 inches, Yasir’s body is presented at roughly life scale as he sits, back toward the camera, holding an iPhone up to image himself. In the detail of that screen you can see his face which is not visible to the (my) camera, and on closer inspection you can see me, very small also captured in that screen. He sits on a cube-shaped plywood stool which is caught between two views – again reflected and non-reflected space. The non-reflected “present” stool reveals the fact that the image of Yasir at the center of this picture is a reflection, just out-of-frame in the “present” space. His iPhone screen is pointed toward the mirror itself.” Returning to this image in 2019, the artist focused on Yasir’s iPhone and the direction of its screen. This on-screen image within the photograph opens up the usually closed circuit of mirror and camera in the studio, by pointing not only to a sort of infinity of reflection within this circuit, but also to a way out through alternate modes of circulation.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
“Model Study (0X5A4029),” 2017
Archival pigment print
60 x 40" [HxW] (152.4 x 101.6 cm)
Edition of 5, 2 AP
Inventory #SEP650
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff McLane
Paul Mpagi Sepuya “Model Study (0X5A4029),” 2017

In a recent interview, Sepuya said that he would like those who view his work to be excited, “in every sense of the word.” The ambiguity of what you are looking at in Sepuya’s photographs – the sitters, their reflections, the studio, the black velvet backdrop that renders the surface of the mirror enticingly smudged with remnants of tape and fingerprints – is visually and intellectually exciting; a puzzle of surface, screen, and reflection. The playful interactions of artist and (mostly male) sitters who are often but not always nude; weaving limbs in gestures that span the suggestive, intimate, and self-consciously performative excites not only because there is the suggestion of sex, but also because this suggestion rebukes the objectifying gaze so typical of historical representations of queer, raced male bodies. Interwoven with other references to creative power, suggestions of play and collaboration in the making of the images, Sepuya offers a conversation around pictures that touches upon histories of representation, formal and technical approaches to image making, and on the space of encounter with pictures. This body of work suggests the expanded field of queer community, a conversation around and about pictures, but also around and about friendship, sexuality, authorship, distraction and attention.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
“Studio (0X5A5006, 0X5A5007),” 2020
Archival pigment print
Diptych, 75 x 50" [HxW] (190.5 x 127 cm) each print
Edition of 5, 2 AP
Inventory #SEP666
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff McLane
sepuya_666_studio0x5a50060x5a5007_framed_hires-1584036601.jpg
Paul Mpagi Sepuya
“A conversation around pictures (0X5A2615),” 2019
Archival pigment print
75 x 50" [HxW] (190.5 x 127 cm)
Edition of 5, 2 AP
Inventory #SEP659
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff McLane
Paul Mpagi Sepuya “A conversation around pictures (0X5A2615),” 2019
Paul Mpagi Sepuya
“Figure (0X5A0918),” 2019
Archival pigment print
75 x 50" [HxW] (190.5 x 127 cm)
Edition of 5, 2 AP
Inventory #SEP652
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff McLane
Paul Mpagi Sepuya “Figure (0X5A0918),” 2019
Paul Mpagi Sepuya
“Drop Scene (0X5A1916),” 2019
Archival pigment print
75 x 50" [HxW] (190.5 x 127 cm)
Edition of 5, 2 AP
Inventory #SEP660
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff McLane
sepuya_660_dropscene0x5a1916_framed_hires-1584036047.jpg
Paul Mpagi Sepuya
“Studio (0X5A5038),” 2020
Archival pigment print
50 x 75" [HxW] (127 x 190.5 cm)
Edition of 5, 2 AP
Inventory #SEP664
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff McLane
sepuya_664_studio0x5a5038_hires-1584036079.jpg
Paul Mpagi Sepuya
“Screen (0X5A8295),” 2019
Archival pigment print
60 x 40" [HxW] (152.4 x 101.6 cm)
Edition of 5, 2 AP
Inventory #SEP654
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff McLane
Paul Mpagi Sepuya “Screen (0X5A8295),” 2019
Paul Mpagi Sepuya
“Screen (0X5A8328),” 2019
Archival pigment print
60 x 40" [HxW] (152.4 x 101.6 cm)
Edition of 5, 2 AP
Inventory #SEP655
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff McLane
Paul Mpagi Sepuya “Screen (0X5A8328),” 2019
Paul Mpagi Sepuya
“A conversation around pictures (0X5A5079),” 2019
Archival pigment print
75 x 50" [HxW] (190.5 x 127 cm)
Edition of 5, 2 AP
Inventory #SEP646
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff McLane
Paul Mpagi Sepuya “A conversation around pictures (0X5A5079),” 2019
Paul Mpagi Sepuya
“A conversation around pictures (_1090454),” 2019
Archival pigment print
45 x 34" [HxW] (114.3 x 86.36 cm)
Edition of 5, 2 AP
Inventory #SEP642
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff McLane
Paul Mpagi Sepuya “A conversation around pictures (_1090454),” 2019
Paul Mpagi Sepuya
“Darkroom Mirror (0X5A0721),” 2019
Archival pigment print
60 x 40" [HxW] (152.4 x 101.6 cm)
Edition of 5, 2 AP
Inventory #SEP649
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff McLane
Paul Mpagi Sepuya “Darkroom Mirror (0X5A0721),” 2019
Paul Mpagi Sepuya
“Studio (0X5A5051),” 2020
Archival pigment print
75 x 50" [HxW] (190.5 x 127 cm)
Edition of 5, 2 AP
Inventory #SEP665
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff McLane
sepuya_665_studio0x5a5051_framed_hires-1584036509.jpg

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Biography

Paul Mpagi Sepuya (b. 1982, San Bernardino, CA) received an MFA in photography at UCLA in 2016. From 2000 – 2014 Sepuya resided in New York City, receiving a BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2004. In 2019 a survey of Sepuya’s work was presented in a solo exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis that traveled to the Blaffer Art Museum in Houston, Texas. The corresponding monograph is forthcoming. Other recent solo exhibitions include “Double Enclosure,” FOAM Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; “Portraits / Positions,” KMAC Museum, Louisville, KY; and “STUDIO WORK,” Platform Centre for Photography, Winnipeg, MB, Canada. Recent group exhibitions include “Masculinities: Through Photography and Film from the 1960s to Now,” Barbican, London; “In Focus: The Camera,” Getty Museum, Los Angeles; “Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now,” Guggenheim Museum, New York; the 2019 Whitney Biennial; “Being: New Photography 2018,” Museum of Modern Art, New York; and “Trigger” at the New Museum, New York. Sepuya’s work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the International Center for Photography, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Carnegie Museum, among others.

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