Los Angeles

Anne Collier

Marc Foxx Gallery

The first work in Anne Collier’s third show of photographs at Marc Foxx, a color print entitled I Am Not Ashamed (all works 2004), perfectly encapsulates the artist’s oeuvre. Record albums are stacked against a wall, their tops aligned save one that has been pulled up and is pinned against the wall by the compression of its neighbors. This bears an illustration of a wall graffitied with the slogan that is the title of both Collier’s photo and the inspirational album it co-opts. The strange visible invisibility of On Kawara—offering a small utterance but little other direct expression or identfication of the artist—combines with the strategic recontextualization of John Baldessari; the fusion of the image is assertive and declarative yet comes from someone who seems to want to leave little trace. It is expressive, but the expression is someone else’s. In Songwriter, a plainly dressed Collier faces the camera but obscures her head with an album cover featuring a black-and-white photo of a smiling folk singer, thus completing while also masking the artist.

But Collier is not an “album-cover artist.” Rather, the covers are among a number of handy devices for use in a kind of emotional bait and switch. Witness the three images closest to conventional self-portraiture. In the first, Mirror Ball, the artist’s reflection is blurred and fragmented, with just one eye clearly visible in the ball’s central tile. In Eye, we zoom in on Collier’s face, but so tightly that we can see only peripheral bits of nose, brow, and cheek framing her eyeball, which incorporates—in a flourish of Photoshopstyle surrealism—a second tiny eye peeking out from within its pupil. Seeming to take its cue from Magritte’s painting Portrait, 1935, Collier’s photo treats the artist’s face as an anonymous slab of meat behind which consciousness lurks. And in Corner Push (After Terry Fox, 1970), Collier is turned away from the camera and scrunched into a corner, restaging a gesture of self-diminution.

Throughout the exhibition, Collier borrowed, quoted, channeled, and used as surrogates the visages, strategies, and products of others, but this is not work bound up in appropriation theory. Rather, it speaks of the discomfort of authorship from the point of view of an artist who hesitates to insert herself into her work; who perhaps wants to be expressive, or at least explore expressivity, in a climate that little favors it; and who appears curious about the possibility of an artist becoming vulnerable through art, though likely wary of that premise’s contingencies and clichés. Collier’s work poignantly and playfully reflects on what might be personal to her but is nonetheless familiar to many: a state of being in which it seems the most comfortable feelings to have—or expressions to offer—might not be one’s own.

Christopher Miles