The man without a face: Jimmie Durham at the Whitney Museum

The Art Newspaper, November 10, 2017

"Towards the end of the American artist Jimmie Durham’s retrospective at the Whitney Museum in New York, there are three self-portraits that succinctly capture the 77-year-old artist’s practice. In one, he wears a mask to look like the artist Maria Thereza Alves, his partner of almost 40 years. In another, he is dressed as Rosa Levy, a character referring to Marcel Duchamp’s alter ago, Rrose Sélavy. In the last work, Self-Portrait Pretending to Be a Stone Statue of Myself (2006), Durham holds a rock the size of his head in front of his face, so that he is completely obscured.

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Which of these self-portraits is the most true? Is it the one as Rosa Levy character, seemingly a perfect distillation Durham’s self-image? Or is it the one where he plays Alves, whom he knows as well as anyone and whose sensibilities may have partly become his own? His face is invisible in the picture with the stone, but perhaps it is the neatest summary of Durham’s sense of himself. There are stones are everywhere in this exhibition, although no two are exactly alike, making them ideal stand-ins for the artist’s many presences."

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