My Model / MySelf

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Justin Vivian Bond


The first London solo exhibition of internationally esteemed artist Mx Justin Vivian Bond. The exhibition draws on Mx Bond’s award-winning practice as writer, singer, painter and performance artist, creating a performative exhibition spaceand reflecting on the captivating and inspirational writings of this groundbreaking transgender artist.

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'My Model / My Self' is a body of new and existing video, performance, text, print, sculptural and a series of watercolour works, combined in one installation.

At the heart of the exhibition is a collection of watercolour paintings: a series of Diptychs consisting of portraits of model Karen Graham and Mx Bond. Karen Graham was the face of Estée Lauder Cosmetics from 1970-1985. Juxtaposed with self-portraits of Mx Bond these watercolours reflect and enhance the obsessive nature of the relationship, which developed during v’s adolescence, with the model who v describes “as blank and perfect as the sphinx - only more modern and wearing LOTS of make-up”.

With these images of Karen Graham and throughout the exhibition Mx Bond explores the gateway to self- determination “presented by a subjective association with an external image which allowed me to aspire to internally create an image of myself and for myself where I was able to live in a private state of grace.”

The title of the show “My Model / My Self” references the pop-psychology book “My Mother My Self: The Daughter’s Search for Identity” which was originally published in 1977 by feminist author Nancy Friday. Drawing parallels between this book and the difficulties inherent in the search of the “transchild” to find suitable role models within a traditional familial structure “My Model /My Self” becomes about a journey to escape traditional gender roles through a capitalist phantasm of self-creation as a survival mechanism.

The signifiers of these phantasms are reflected throughout the exhibition by commercially produced, limited edition wallpapers (in collaboration with wallpaper designer George Venson of Voutsa), posters (which include re-contexutalized images of “tear-outs” of photographs of Karen Gramham taken by Viktor Skebneski for Estée Lauder ads) , and sculptural installations including “My Model / My Self” paperback books. These posters, wallpapers and books create a space for contemplation, expectation, and a possibility for the public fulfillment of privately conceived potentialities.

Throughout the length of the Private View Mx Bond will occasionally appear in performance as the gallery window is transformed into a public/private space with a “step and repeat” made of customised artist wallpaper and set with a red carpet and velvet rope. The artist instructs that this space is only to be occupied by Vivian Bond or Karen Graham. Occasionally the step and repeat will be activated with a performance by Justin Vivian Bond who will occupy the installation modeling a pink silk dress designed by Frank Masandrea, a young fashion designer whose clothes were modeled by Karen Graham and who died of HIV related complications at the age of 41 in the late 1980s.

'My Model / My Self' is at once autobiographical and reflective of the capitalist impulse to seek validation through identification with external stimulus due to the failure of traditionally binaristic social and familial structures to recognize the realities of complex personal multiplicities. Then again, maybe it’s simply a search for peace.

Curator: Alys Williams.

Selected press

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