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July 2, 2022–February 12, 2023
Martine Syms: She Mad Season One, a solo exhibition by the Los Angeles-based artist, will be on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (b. 1988, Los Angeles, CA; lives in Los Angeles, CA). Syms is well known for his multimodal practice, which combines biting social critique with humor to reflect on modern visual culture.
The five-part video series She Mad (2015–2021) by Syms is featured in the exhibition, which also serves as the US premiere of the series’ most recent episode, The Non-Hero. A young Black lady from Los Angeles is the subject of the semi-autobiographical sitcom She Mad, which follows her artistic ascent to success. Syms examines how Black lives are portrayed on television, in movies, and online by drawing on early cinema, television programs, commercials, and internet memes.
The exhibition places five video pieces—A Pilot for a Show About Nowhere (2015), Laughing Gas (2016), Intro to Threat Modeling (2017), Bitch Zone (2020), and The Non-Hero (2021)—within an immersive sculptural installation that includes freshly made custom seating and exposed aluminum studs painted in the artist’s signature shade of purple—a reference to both the chroma key backdrops frequently used in the post-production of movies and television shows and Alice Walker’s 1982 novel The Color Purple.
The rapper Lil Nas X’s well-known “Life Story” videos on the social media platform TikTok are the inspiration for the format of The Non-Hero (2021), which is composed of a number of brief segments. To analyze the versions of ourselves we publish on social media, Syms’ video blurs the lines between fact and fiction, mirroring its source material. The four-channel movie Laughing Gas (2016), another standout of the show, is based on the satirical comedy of the same name from 1907, which is famous for having Bertha Regustus, a Black actress from silent films, in the starring position. In this updated version of the movie, Syms plays the lead role of the patient who visits the dentist, gets laughing gas, and then finds out that her insurance company won’t pay for the treatment. Combining footage from security cameras, television clips, and animated GIFs, Syms puts her version of the character into dialogue with contemporary representations of Blackness in popular media.
The exhibition is produced in collaboration with Bergen Kunsthall, in Bergen, Norway. The MCA’s presentation is curated by Jadine Collingwood, Assistant Curator, with Jack Schneider, Curatorial Assistant.
The exhibition will be open to the public from July 2, 2022, through February 12, 2023, and is presented in the Bergman Family Gallery on the museum’s second floor.
Lead support is provided by the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris, Zell Family Foundation, Cari and Michael Sacks, R.H. Defares, and Susie Karkomi and Marvin Leavitt.
Major support is provided by Citi Private Bank, Anne Kaplan, Karyn and Bill Silverstein, and Charlotte Cramer Wagner and Herbert S. Wagner III of the Wagner Foundation.
This exhibition is supported by the Women Artists Initiative, a philanthropic commitment to further equity across gender lines and promote the work and ideas of women artists.
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