Curated by Susan Hapgood
All people have their own psychological quirks; we accept this as an essential element of human nature. During the past fifteen years, more and more artists have been probing these peculiarities, exploring neurosis as a primary subject of their art. Slightly Unbalanced features work that deals with a range of psychological tendencies, including anxiety, obsessive behavior, depression and narcissism. The artists question what constitutes normalcy, and what qualifies as neurosis, a slippery and suggestive endeavor.
The exhibition spans four distinct thematic sections, beginning with works by five internationally renowned individuals—Louise Bourgeois, Sophie Calle, Mike Kelley, Bruce Nauman, and Cindy Sherman—who have been pioneers in addressing psychology in their art, and who have strongly influenced other artists over the past ten or more years. For example, in most of the images in Sherman’s Untitled series from 2000, she plays various female personae who appear palpably uncomfortable in their own skin. Artists who play a performative role in their own videos, as Sherman frequently has in her photographs, are featured in the second section of this exhibition, often focusing on narcissism. The third section of the show offers works in diaristic or confessional formats, as if the viewer is bearing witness to different individuals’ inner monologues, as in Sean Lander’s paintings, videos, and sound works. The last section, which includes several sculptural installations, explores the house as a fertile metaphor for the mind—the domestic interior as a stand-in for the psyche.
The field of psychology is 150 years old, and many of its basic concepts and terminology are embedded in our presuppositions about how people think and act, what drives and motivates us. The artists whose works are presented in Slightly Unbalanced, in choosing to concentrate on neurosis, have tapped into a charged theme that provokes a range of responses, including discomfort, recognition, empathy, and humor. Their development of psychologically loaded subject matter provides a deeply enriched vocabulary for contemporary art.