Sara Cwynar’s composite photographs of found objects and images court feelings of time passing. Using studio sets, collage, and re-photography, she produces intricate tableaux that draw from magazine advertisements, postcards, or catalogs.
Cwynar is interested in how design and popular images work on our psyches, in how their visual strategies infiltrate our consciousness. In her book, Kitsch Encyclopedia (2013), she considers how familiar, sentimental images smooth over unpleasant realities, to cover up “the systems of control embedded within our social, economic, and political lives.”
She presents dated commercial images to expose the failure, with time, of their visual trickery and the waning of their seductive powers. Her works highlight how the once familiar becomes foreign; how the fetishized object loses its luster; how glamour fades.
Among her key works are sculptural constructions that are photographed, printed, tiled, and re-photographed; images taken from darkroom manuals that are deconstructed using a scanner; and stock photographs that are collaged by hand and then re-photographed. Cwynar’s process is, in a sense, circular: she begins and finishes with a photograph after a journey of intervention and manipulation that disrupts the smooth surface and perspective of the original.
Sara Cwynar (Vancouver, BC, Canada, 1985) currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She holds an MFA from Yale University, New Haven, CT; a Bachelor of Design from York University, Toronto, ON, Canada; and studied English Literature at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Selected exhibitions include: “Sara Cwynar,” The approach, London, UK (solo)(2020); “Sara Cwynar,” The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT (solo)(2019); “Image Model Muse,” Milwaukee Museum of Art, WI, and Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN (solo)(2018-2019); "Tracy,” Oakville Galleries, Oakville, ON, Canada (solo); 33rd Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil (both 2018); “Soft Film,” MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany (solo); “Subjektiv,” Malmö Konsthall, Sweden; “You Are Looking at Something That Never Occurred,” Zabludowicz Collection, London, UK (all 2017); and “Greater New York,” MoMA PS1, Queens, NY (2015-2016). In 2019 MoMA New York commissioned Cwynar to make a series of films that stream on the museum’s website and social media platforms.
Cwynar’s works are in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, New York; MoMA, New York; MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; SFMOMA, San Francisco; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Dallas Museum of Art; Milwaukee Art Museum; Fondazione Prada, Milan; Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco; Zabludowicz Collection, London; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City; and FOAM Photography Museum, Amsterdam.
Cwynar, Sara. Interview by Gabriel Ritter "Sara Cwynar’s Contemporary Nostalgia: On the occasion of her solo exhibition in Minneapolis, the Canadian artist speaks about color and consumerism in the information age." Aperture. 3 Oct. 2018. Web.
Wiley, Chris, et al. “A roundtable discussion hosted by Chris Wiley, with Lucas Blalock, Sara Cwynar and Erin Shirreff.” You Are Looking at Something That Never Occurred. Ed. Paul Luckraft. London: Zabludowicz Art Projects, 2017: 16-25.
Liberty, Megan N. "The Color Palette of Materialism, from Rose Gold iPhones to Millennial Pink Shopping Bags: In her latest exhibition, Sara Cwynar probes our complicated relationship with image-saturated advertising.” Hyperallergic. 1 May 2017. Web.
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