British conceptual artist Gillian Wearing won the Turner Prize in 1997 (while still in her mid-30s). This comprehensive, copiously illustrated exhibition catalog documents the first major retrospective of her video and photography-based works. One of the Young British Artists, Wearing is represented in important collections ranging from the Tate Modern to the Guggenheim and the Hammer Museum. “The key to unlocking the work of Gillian Wearing is found not in art history but in reality television,” writes Ben Luke in the London Evening Standard. “Not so much the tabloid fodder of the 21st century but the tough stuff from the Sixties and Seventies…Always at the grittier end of the Young British Artists spectrum, she is in essence a documentary film-maker and photographer, her work weaving around the line that documentary treads between fact and fiction.” Wearing is known for delving into questions of identity—of herself and others—and for getting members of the public to reveal their innermost secrets, often at uncomfortable levels of intimacy and emotional charge. She often masks her subjects or herself, a strategy that, paradoxically, seems to reveal more than it hides. The retrospective goes back to Wearing’s first important work, the 1992-93 Signs that Say What You Want Them to Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You to Say, in which she asked people on the street to write a personal sign and then hold it up for a photo. During the 1990s, she used dramatized scenes to explore edgy relationship issues between parents and children. In her 2010 video Bully a young adult orchestrates actors to re-create a bullying incident in which he was the victim. With over 100 illustrations and insightful essays, this catalog presents Wearing as an important mid-career artist who finds new ways to explore human emotions in the age of social media.
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