Los Angeles

David Gutierrez, Self-Portrait #41, 2019, ink-jet print, 30 × 72".

David Gutierrez, Self-Portrait #41, 2019, ink-jet print, 30 × 72".

David Gutierrez

In this small, tightly focused exhibition, David Gutierrez presented figurative and literal dissections—or, more specifically, work that picked apart the artist’s own identity, personal history, and body through a panoply of doppelgängers. Displayed horizontally on the floor at the center of Tiger Strikes Asteroid was the life-size color photograph Self-Portrait #41, 2019, one of twenty-one such pictures that were included in the show. This piece depicted the artist costumed as an “anatomical Venus,” a kind of figurative wax sculpture that was popular in Italy during the late eighteenth century and used for the purpose of teaching anatomy. While aesthetically modeled on the female form in repose, these sculpted bodies had cutaway sections that revealed interior organs and biological systems in glorious gory detail. With this exactingly produced, high-femme image, Gutierrez offered an invitation for viewers to peek into their dreamy—and remarkably visceral—subjectivities.

On the walls surrounding the large-format photograph were twenty small color prints of the artist dressed as a cast of expressive characters with dramatic makeup and costuming. For Self-Portrait #22, 2017, Gutierrez contorted their lithe body while wearing a stiff-looking mask that resembled the grinning visage of a mythological creature. In Self-Portrait #38, 2019, they’re outfitted as an elegant lady who has a draggy Klaus Nomi–esque style. In Self-Portrait #42, 2020, the artist was heavily maquillaged and wrapped in a Korean hanbok, a traditional type of dress used for both ceremonial occasions and everyday wear. The artist’s glamorous alter egos slipped seamlessly between genders, styles, and time periods with a theatrical panache that flaunted their careful, colorful, and precise stagecraft. By playing all the roles, Gutierrez also put their impressive range of physical performance on full display.

These photographs were drawn from Gutierrez’s “Ancestral Projection” series, an ongoing body of work started in 2016 through which the artist examines their Mexican and Korean heritage via family narratives passed down by their Korean American mother. By digging deep into this matrilineal history, the artist further examined various ideas around shamanism, mysticism, and folklore. For example, three traditional Korean hats that were hung near the grouping of photographs—each one titled 만신 / TenThousand Spirits, all 2020—seemed to have been crafted for some unknown ritualistic purpose. Made out of translucent organza in stark red, white, and black, these magical headpieces, carefully suspended by long threads from the gallery’s ceiling, felt as though they possessed a mysterious otherworldly charge.

In melding the mythic with the personal, Gutierrez protracts their identity toward fantastic ends, playing with (and paying respect to) alternate systems of knowledge, embodiment, and belief. Posing for the camera, Gutierrez forges a deep kinship with both real and fictional relatives. And in performing all their stories, fears, and desires, the artist conjures an enticing link between an elastic multifaceted self and an even grander, richer imaginary. This show was a strong breakout presentation for Gutierrez—it’s a shame it was on view for less than a month.