Matthew Tully Dugan, "Society Management"
August 2nd, 2018 - August 31st, 2018
FIERMAN presents Society Management, a solo exhibition by Matthew Tully Dugan. The exhibition is comprised of collaged and assemblage paintings saturated with mass media imagery, painted replications of such imagery, and found objects. Kendall Jenner, supermodel, scion of the Kardashian - Jenner dynasty, “fashion icon of the decade,” figures centrally in Dugan’s visual lexicon, and her image reverberates throughout the exhibition alongside that of Koko, the gorilla famous for her linguistic abilities. For Dugan the two K’s, Kendall and Koko, serve as avatars of changing notions of authenticity, personhood, and artifice.
Kendall Nicole Jenner, born 1995, was given a name doubly laden: the K continuing mother Kris’s branding efforts; Nicole for Nicole Brown Simpson, the recently slain wife of OJ, personal friend to Kris. The Simpson trial was one of the pivotal events of the late 20th Century ushering in the age of unrelenting media onslaught. The proliferative speed of image circulation has only increased since, and Jenner and her K-named sisters stand at the uneasy nexus of image exploitation, capitalism, and the female body. The Kardashians’ echo chamber of images, their continual rollout of branded products, and their reification of traditional familial relationships serve to collapse concepts of authenticity and selfhood.
Alongside Kendall in Dugan’s work stands Koko, another K-sister, another reality star, the gorilla raised from infancy in a cultural Panopticon, taught sign language by her psychologist handler, who became famous in the 1970’s for her remarkable person-like abilities to emote, communicate, recognize her own image, feel shame, and tell lies, among other quotidian capacities. Koko’s uncanny semblance of personhood exploded age-old assumptions about animals as the Kardashians’ televised lives simultaneously expand the notion of reality beyond its binary negative corollary of falsehood.
In a video installation incorporating an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians that has been tonally inverted and plays at 1/4th speed Dugan has created viewing Nests, functional seats made of tires and towels mimicking those made by Koko, playing on the tenuous division between public exposure and private seclusion epitomized by the American home. The Kardashians and Koko both live in front of a camera where their domestic lives are continually documented for public consumption and critique. This willful disregard for privacy asserts that there is nowhere to hide as the uncanny, alien-like Kardashians in the video reveal. Comfort can be sought in the soft, enveloping nests designed by the gorilla herself.
The title of the exhibition, Society Management, Kendall Jenner’s modeling agency, simultaneously alludes to Dugan’s feelings of vulnerability in the face of extreme personal exposure and the spectre of constant evaluation by others heightened by the social media and the constraints of twenty-first century American hyper-capitalism.