For over fifty years, Lynn Hershman Leeson has created an innovative and prescient body of work that mines the intersections of technology and the self. Known for her groundbreaking contributions to media art, Hershman Leeson has consistently worked with the latest technologies, from Artificial Intelligence to DNA programming, often anticipating the impact of technological developments on society. As the artist posited in 1998, “Imagine a world in which there is a blurring between the soul and the chip, a world in which artificially implanted DNA is genetically bred to create an enlightened and self-replicating intelligent machine, which perhaps uses a human body as a vehicle for mobility.”
The exhibition will bring together a selection of Hershman Leeson’s work in drawing, sculpture, video, and photography, along with interactive and net-based works, focusing on themes of transmutation, identity construction, and the evolution of the cyborg. Filling the New Museum’s Second Floor galleries, this presentation will include some of the artist’s most important projects, including wax-cast Breathing Machine sculptures (1965–68) and selections from hundreds of early drawings from the 1960s, many of which have never been exhibited before. Works from the Roberta Breitmore series (1973–78), perhaps her best-known project, in which she transformed her identity into a fictional persona, will be shown alongside her video Seduction of a Cyborg (1994) and selections from the series Water Women (1976–present), Phantom Limb (1985–88), and Cyborg (1996–2006), among others.
The exhibition will also include Hershman Leeson’s most recent large-scale project, Infinity Engine (2014–present), a multimedia installation based on a genetics laboratory that explores the effects of genetic engineering on society. Together, the works in the exhibition will trace the ever-intertwined relationship between the technological and the corporeal, illuminating the political and social consequences of scientific advances on our most intimate selves and biological lives.
The exhibition is curated by Margot Norton, Curator, and is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with contributions by Karen Archey and Martine Syms, and an interview with Lynn Hershman Leeson conducted by Margot Norton.
Lynn Hershman Leeson (b. 1941, Cleveland, OH) lives and works in San Francisco and New York. Her recent retrospective exhibition, “Civic Radar,” traveled from ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany (2014) to Deichtorhallen Hamburg / Sammlung Falckenberg, Germany (2015); Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, Germany (2016); and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2017). Recent solo exhibitions have been held at Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo Comunidad de Madrid (2019); KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2018); Haus der elektronischen Künste, Basel (2018); Modern Art Oxford, UK (2015); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2013), and the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (2007). Her work has been included in group exhibitions at the de Young Museum, San Francisco (2020); The Shed, New York (2019); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2019); Institute of Contemporary Art Boston (2018); Whitney Museum of American Art (2017); and Whitechapel Gallery, London (2016); as well as international exhibitions, including the Riga Biennial of Contemporary Art (2018), Glasgow International (2018), and the forthcoming 2020 Gwangju Biennial in Korea. Her films have screened at the Sundance Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, and the Berlin International Film Festival, among others. Hershman Leeson has received numerous awards, including a VIA Art Fund Award (2019), a Siggraph Lifetime Achievement Award (2018), the College Art Association’s Distinguished Feminist Award (2018), the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award from the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival (2017), a United States Artists Fellowship (2016), an Anonymous Was a Woman Award (2014), and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2009).