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Paul Mpagi Sepuya

Pier 24 Artist Lecture, California College of the Arts San Francisco, CA

October 23, 2018

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Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s work is rooted in portraiture, homoerotic visual culture, and the role of the studio. His highly crafted photographs, in which his subjects are often revealed in fragments, alert us to the artifice and performance that are an integral part of the photographic process; a constant negotiation between the artist, the sitter, the viewer, and the work itself.

Describing his subjects as a cast of friends, intimates, and muses, Sepuya sees these relationships as being mediated by the making and production of photographs. Using a combination of draped fabric, careful framing, and layering of images of his previous work, the viewer sees arms, thighs, torsos, and hands, but rarely the whole of the subject’s body. Through shooting into his studio mirror, Sepuya draws his varied source materials together in one plane. His deliberately provocative approach is designed to create a feeling of longing within the viewer, to see what is concealed. This form of active looking implicates the viewer within the creative process and highlights the role of desire as a productive and critical force.

Sepuya was born in 1982 and he lives and works in Los Angeles. He received his MFA from the University of California Los Angeles in 2016 and a BFA from New York University Tisch School of the Arts in 2004.