One Should Not Look at Anything
One Should Not Look at Anything
Baxter St is proud to present One Should Not Look at Anything, a solo exhibition of photographs by artist Rachel Stern. The presentation is curated by Dr. Ksenia M. Soboleva, Baxter St’s 2022 Guest Curatorial Initiative Recipient, and will comprise over 70 new works. Stern’s elaborately arranged, maximalist portraits incorporate text from Oscar Wilde’s 1891 play, Salome, to create meditations on contemporary notions of desire.
Rachel Stern’s practice is one of translation between artistic modes of expression. She is concerned with the intersection of beauty and power and turns to the tableaux and the theater’s proscenium in order to create a dialogue between the histories of literature, drama, and photography. Stern incorporates kitsch and leftist aesthetics while drawing on Wilde’s narrative examination of the destructive potential of unrequited desire.
As Soboleva writes in a text that will accompany the exhibition: “As a self-identified fat person moving through a fatphobic world, Stern has often felt excluded from the experience of desirability. Continuing her studio practice of creating elaborate sets to stage her photographs, the artist spelled out Salome’s line in letters cut from hand marbled paper, and attached the letters to a sheet of plexiglass placed between the camera and her lavish set. She then posed behind this veil of language, becoming both the desiring subject and the object of desire, both the looker and the one being looked at. Stern’s photographs offer a translation of Wilde’s play into visual language, meditating on the field of vision as both one of desire and of danger.”
Support for Baxter St’s Guest Curatorial Program is provided by the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation.
Rachel Stern (b. 1989, NYC) is a photographer whose work considers the intersection of beauty and power. Stern turns to the tableaux and the proscenium in order to create a strong dialogue between the histories and uses of kitsch and leftist aesthetics. Using materials culled from strip malls and thrift stores she creates images which ask art and visual culture to enter into a discourse of accessibility and, in the spirit of ‘bread and roses’, demand immediate access to beauty. Her work images a world that might be, built out of the world that is. It is a kitsch paradise, a queer-washed history, and an attempt at hope. She received her BFA in Photography and the History of Art and Visual Culture in 2011 from the Rhode Island School of Design, attended Skowhegan in 2014, and graduated from Columbia University in 2016 with an MFA in Visual Arts. Her work has been featured in BOMB, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, ArtFCity, Hyperallergic, and Matte Magazine.
Dr. Ksenia M. Soboleva is a New York based writer and art historian specializing in queer art and culture. She holds a PhD from the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, with a dissertation titled “Fragments: Art, AIDS, and Lesbian Identity in the United States.” Her writings have appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, BOMB Magazine, Hyperallergic, art-agenda, and various exhibition catalogues. She has curated exhibitions at Candice Madey Gallery, La MaMa Galleria, and Assembly Room. Soboleva was the 2020-2021 Vilcek Curatorial Fellow at the Guggenheim Museum, where she assisted in organizing the Gillian Wearing: Wearing Masks exhibition. She is currently the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Gender and LGBTQ+ History at the New York Historical Society.