Critics’ Picks

Heji Shin, Angel Energy 1, 2019, inkjet print, 38 x 28".

Heji Shin, Angel Energy 1, 2019, inkjet print, 38 x 28".

Los Angeles

Heji Shin

Gaga & Reena Spaulings Los Angeles
6916 Santa Monica Blvd
November 17, 2019–January 11, 2020

From birth to breastfeeding and Kanye to Kardashian, the bridges Heji Shin builds in her recent photographs lead to a vision of desire shaped by data systems and corporate content. Whereas in her previous series she considered the impenetrable specificity of individuals’ experiences and appearances (the singular, incommunicable nature of pain or the illegibility of a face), here the artist imagines an imminent future of increasing self-commodification, a phenomenon tied to a pornographic impulse toward hypervisibility, where everything is laid bare, marketed, and sold.

A brand ambassador for the online purveyor YouPorn poses as a nursing mother; photos of real-life babies are digitally collaged onto her image, latched to her breast. This CGI character, dubbed Jedy Vales, was designed by the company through a combination of machine learning, motion capture, and collected search data; her body represents a conglomeration of the most-selected bodily features on the website. Shin modifies her slightly: The simulated woman sometimes appears topless or bald, as in Angel Energy 2 (all works 2019)—instant customization foregrounded within the digital erotic experience.

The Kardashians’ likenesses appear in other works, their images taken from either the stars themselves or look-alikes the artist found via Instagram. The actual celebrities are represented in hazy photographs on metal, where their semi-visible faces recall both Warhol’s screen-printed portraits and his oxidation paintings. The doppelgängers, lounging in Alexander Wang underwear in front of white backdrops, are represented in framed photos and wall-size prints. You Killed This depicts a Kim twin taking an iPhone picture of the streets of SoHo from her window, simultaneously memorializing and capitalizing on the location.

Having recently shot a magazine editorial with the Kardashians, Shin is implicated in the dynamics she portrays, and she makes her claim without sanctimony. If that family embodies the commercial shift from television to social media, Jedy, with her infant charges, is what follows.