For our project Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other, Autograph has commissioned Joy Gregory to create a new series of sun prints, a visual diary exploring self-care during the pandemic. Keep reading to learn more about Joy's work, and what she's making.
Joy Gregory, Autoportrait 1989/1990, commissioned by Autograph
Since the 1980s, artist Joy Gregory (b. 1959, Bicester, UK) has been exploring issues of representation, race, gender, and the wider cultural politics of identity, memory and history. Her practice employs photographic media – both analogue and digital – from still to moving image and camera-less photography alongside installation, objects and sound.
Celebrated for her pioneering work on self-identity and auto-portraiture in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Gregory’s intimate engagement with ideas around blackness, femininity, and beauty is epitomised in her seminal series Autoportrait (1989/90). Autograph’s first artist commission, the series was a direct response to the lack of representation of black women within lifestyle consumer magazines. Her subsequent body of work Objects of Beauty (1992-1995) delved into questions of aesthetics and body politics, combining the Victorian process of collotypes to capture a range of objects often associated with feminine beauty and constraints of Western fashion industry. Similarly, themed artistic investigations continued with series such as Girl Thing (2000-2005), Cinderella Tours Europe, (1997 – 2001), and Fairest, (1998/2010).
For this new artist commission, Gregory will respond to the idea of Care | Contagion | Community with a focus on the idea of self-care. With daily routines suspended since lockdown was imposed, Gregory found herself walking 7km daily at her local Burgess Park, South London, collecting organic matter in the form of plants and leaves. Through this everyday ritual, Gregory meets the same strangers, now familiar faces, sharing passing conversations with one another while maintaining distance in fear of close contact. These organic materials are taken back to her studio and captured as sun prints, alongside fragments of conversations. This metaphorical idea of ‘exposure’ is transmuted in Gregory’s signature style photograms – producing a diaristic pandemic record: a ‘mechanism for mapping’, and healing.
We'll update this page as the commission progresses, join our mailing list for updates. In the meantime, read an introduction to the Care | Contagion | Community project by Autograph's Senior Curator Renée Mussai.
Joy Gregory, 3 Strings of Pearls from the series Girl Thing, 2002-2005
Joy Gregory, Bustier from the series Objects of Beauty 1992-1995
Autograph has commissioned ten artists to create new work responding to the wider context of the Covid-19 crisis. Initiated during the first month of lockdown, Autograph’s curatorial team Mark Sealy, Renée Mussai and Bindi Vora have been in close dialogue with a constituency of creative practitioners in our immediate artistic community. For the first phase, we have invited UK-based artists working with photography, film and lens-based media to create a new small-scale, open-ended visual arts project. The second phase will encompass ten new writing commissions, where each writer – paired with one of the artists – will be tasked to produce a short essay contextualising these newly commissioned works.
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Images, from top: 1) Joy Gregory, Autoportrait 1989/1990, commissioned by Autograph. 2) Joy Gregory, 3 Strings of Pearls from the series Girl Thing, 2002-2005. 3) Joy Gregory, Bustier from the series Objects of Beauty 1992-1995. All images courtesy of and © the artist.