No. 426: Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Chiura Obata

Episode No. 426 of The Modern Art Notes Podcast features artist Paul Mpagi Sepuya and art historian/curator ShiPu Wang.

The Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston is presenting the survey exhibition “Paul Mpagi Sepuya.” The exhibition originated at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and was curated by Wassan Al-Khudhairi with Misa Jeffereis. The Houston presentation was coordinated by Tyler Blackwell. It’s on view at the Blaffer through March 14.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s photographs of himself, his friends and his colleagues advance portraiture through layering, fragmentation, confusion and a certain kind of trompe l’oeil. They make us question what we see, how it’s constructed, and encourage us to contemplate the relationship between reality and artifice. His work is in the collection of museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York (which included his work in “Being: New Photography 2018”), MOCA (where his work may be seen in “The Foundation of the Museum: MOCA’s Collection” through January 20), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

On the second segment, art historian and curator ShiPu Wang discusses “Chiura Obata: An American Modern,” a retrospective of Obata’s career. Obata, who was born in Okayama, Japan, melded modernism and American landscapes with Japanese traditions to make a body of work that both engaged the United States and critiqued its racism. “Obata” debuted at the Art, Design & Architecture Museum at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum through May 25. The exhibition catalogue was published by University of California Press. Amazon offers it for $50.

Air date: January 2, 2020.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Darren, September 8, 2011, 24 x 32 inches.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Ben, 2009, 8 x 10 inches.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Darkroom Mirror Study (_1990750), 2016, 10 x 13 inches.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Mirror Study for Grace (0X5A2020), 2017, 16 x 24 inches.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Darkroom Mirror (_2060999), 2017, 10 x 13 inches.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Darkroom Mirror (0X5A1531), 2017, 34 x 51 inches.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, A Ground (0X5A1495), 2018, 34 x 51 inches.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Aperture (_2140020), 2018, 24 x 32 inches.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Orifice (0X5A6982), 2018, 24 x 36 inches.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Model Study (0X5A3973), 2018, 50 x 75 inches.

 Image courtesy of the artist and DOCUMENT, Chicago, team (gallery, inc.), New York, and Susanne Vielmetter Projects Los Angeles.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, A Ground (File0083), 2015, 10 x 13 inches.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Black Landscape #3, 2009.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Untitled Bed Landscape, 2008, Fujifilm Instant film, 4 1_4 x 3 3_8 inches.

Chiura Obata, Lake Basin in the High Sierra, ca. 1930.

Chiura Obata, Setting Sun of Sacramento Valley, 1922.

Chiura Obata, Untitled (Alma), ca. 1930.

Chiura Obata, Landslide, 1941.

Chiura Obata, Moonlight Over Topaz, December 22, 1942.

Chiura Obata, Devastation, 1945.

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