Martine Gutierrez debuts ten self-portraits as legendary historical figures for multi-city exhibition

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Martine Gutierrez debuts ten self-portraits as legendary historical figures for multi-city exhibition
Martine Gutierrez, ANTI-ICON, Elizabeth, 2021, Boston. Courtesy the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, NY. Photo: Mel Taing, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY.

NEW YORK, NY.- Today, Public Art Fund unveiled ANTI-ICON, a 300-site exhibition of ten new photographs by Brooklyn-based photographer and performance artist Martine Gutierrez. The exhibition is now on view on 100 JCDecaux bus shelters across New York City, 150 in Chicago, and for the first time in this exhibition series, 50 JCDecaux bus shelters in Boston. With ANTI-ICON, Gutierrez continues her exploration of identity across the landscapes of race, gender, class, and culture. Through the ten black and white and color photographs, the artist embodies the spirit of historical and mythological women who have achieved iconic status across cultures, over many centuries, in both art history and popular culture. Gutierrez is the sole performer in the series, and through the use of simple props, wigs, makeup, disguises, and natural elements, she represents ten icons: Aphrodite, Atargatis, Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth I, Gabriel, Lady Godiva, Helen of Troy, Judith, Mulan, and the Queen of Sheba. Framing them as “anti-icons,” Gutierrez reinvents the conventional modes of their representation, while acknowledging their powerful idealized and legendary status. Inspired by and presented on traditional advertising spaces across the three cities, the exhibition can be encountered on a walk or daily commute throughout the duration of the exhibition. ANTI-ICON is Gutierrez’s first institutional solo show in New York and is on view from August 25 to November 21, 2021 on JCDecaux bus shelters across New York City, Chicago, and Boston.

“ANTI-ICON presents ten legendary figures from history and myth who transcended sexist stereotypes to become recognized as powerful, be they rulers, warriors, leaders, or figures of worship,” says Public Art Fund Associate Curator Katerina Stathopoulou. “An image-magician, Gutierrez uses a DIY aesthetic—deploying simple, everyday props—and merges it with the stylized language of advertising to reimagine these icons, evoking a sense of possibility and reinvention."

Transforming herself into a multitude of roles, the artist has interpreted a diverse canon of radical historical figures: Aphrodite, ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty; Atargatis, Syrian goddess of fertility; Cleopatra, Egyptian ruler famed for her influence on Roman politics; Queen Elizabeth I, 16th century Queen of England; Gabriel, archangel who appears in Abrahamic religions; Lady Godiva, bold noblewoman from the Medieval period who fought for justice for everyday people; Helen of Troy, Greek beauty seen as the cause of the Trojan war; Judith, courageous biblical widow who used her charm to bring down an Assyrian general; Mulan, Chinese warrior folk heroine; Queen of Sheba, Arabian queen from Jewish, Christian, and Muslin texts known for her wit, power, and wealth. Each is renowned for their resilience, leadership, courage, and influence. For Gutierrez, they are powerful figures across cultures, as well as role models for the LGBT community, with which she identifies.

"Not celebrity or darling, but a symbol martyred. ANTI-ICON—the radical ethos of femininity, challenging history through her strength, perseverance and beauty. Beauty we covet and fear, sensor and mourn, envy and punish,” says artist Martine Gutierrez.

Gutierrez created the ten artworks in ANTI-ICON just as the COVID-19 pandemic began, working outdoors in a makeshift studio in Upstate New York during the summer of 2020 and spring of 2021. There, she drew inspiration from her natural surroundings and the physical materials to which she had access. Bark, flowers, airy fabrics, feathers, plaster, paint, string, cardboard, and tarps act as props and costumes that transform, armor, and disguise her. Through each metamorphosis, Gutierrez explores the power inherent in the visual representations and symbols that surround us. By embodying and reimagining these icons on bus shelters, she offers a new and unconventional perspective on both identity and cultural representation.

Martine Gutierrez: ANTI-ICON is curated by Public Art Fund Associate Curator Katerina Stathopoulou.

Martine Gutierrez (b.1989) is an artist, performer, writer and musician who constructs elaborate narrative scenes to subvert pop cultural tropes in the exploration of identity, both personal and collective intersectional to race, gender, class, indigeneity and culture. Her amass of media—ranging from billboards and episodic films to music videos and renowned magazine, Indigenous Woman—produce the very conduits of advertising that sell the identities she disassembles. Gutierrez hybridizes the industry’s objectification of sex with the individual’s pursuit of self, satirically undermining the aesthetics of what we know. While she manufactures ‘celebrity’ to pass as multinational corporations, it is Gutierrez herself who executes every role—simultaneously acting as subject, artist and muse.

Gutierrez received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2012. She is also a published musician and has produced several commercial videos. Gutierrez lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

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