Solo Show "NANCY BURSON: COMPOSITES. The Pioneer of computer-generated portraits"


The Pioneer of computer-generated portraits

April 13th, 2018 – September 30th, 2018

Opening reception:
Friday, April 13th, 2018
6-8 pm

The artist will attend the event.

The Paci contemporary gallery is pleased to announce the solo exhibition "Nancy Burson: Composites, the pioneer of computer-generated portraits ", centered on the American photographer NANCY BURSON, the last great new entry in the gallery.

Since the beginning of her artistic career, Nancy Burson has been interested in the interactions between art and science and was among the first artists to apply digital technology to the genre of photographic portraiture. Through the synthesis of several photos made possible by the use of her very personal working method, Burson generates completely new works that challenge photographic truth with the birth of digital manipulation. Her work is to be considered unique because she was the first artist to introduce "composite" portraits into the electronic age. Indeed, she is known for her pioneering work in the use of morphing technologies: the use of computer programs to overlay and manipulate photos showing new aspects of the age, race or character of the original subject. In addition, by merging two or more images into a "composite", Nancy Burson's work also includes computer-modified images through a distorting system that intervenes by changing the reality of an image, aging and rejuvenating photographs, and thus projecting a portrait in the future or in the past.

In collaboration with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Nancy Burson began producing computer-generated "composite" portraits in the late 1970s and early 1980s: she developed software that could be used to "age" a human face. Her work has its roots in centuries of social, scientific and pseudo-scientific studies on the human face. However, the artist's attitude towards science has always been imbued with irony and a profound awareness of the absurdities inherent in many historical concepts, such as those of race and gender, which we take for granted today. This great anthological exhibition "Composites" explores the first pioneering works of Nancy Burson from 1976 ("Methods and Apparatus for the "Composite" series of the '70s and' 80s). By digitally combining and manipulating images of often well-known individuals, including movie stars and world leaders, Burson examines political issues, gender, race and beauty standards.

In "Beauty composites", for example, the photographer tried to analyze the changes in style over time, wondering how female movie stars of the '50s compared to those of the' 80s. In the First Beauty Composite, she has combined Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe, and in the Second Beauty Composite, she has joined Jane Fonda, Jacqueline Bisset, Diane Keaton, Brooke Shields and Meryl Streep. They became a real investigation into beauty: the face has literally become a topographic memory of human aesthetics, and a document of the history of beauty standards that suppress individuality. In "Lion / Lamb" natural enemies become a unique being. "Warhead", differently, was born using the images of five world leaders, each represented proportionally by the number of nuclear weapons potentially deployed by the nations they headed: Ronald Reagan (55%), Leonid Brezhnev (45%), Margaret Thatcher (less than 1%), François Mitterand (less than 1%) and Deng Xiaoping (less than 1%).

In 1981, Burson also patented a revolutionary computer program. Her methodology is still used today by the FBI to help locate victims of child abduction - by producing images of how subjects would age over time. In the infamous work "Etan Patz Update", for example, a missing child is "recreated" in his potential future appearance.

A special section of the exhibition will then be dedicated to the series of "Composite paintings" of 1986: Nancy Burson used her techniques to combine and mix some of the most famous masterpieces of twentieth century artists such as Picasso, De Kooning, Rothko, Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Newman.

A large anthological volume will be published in support of the exhibition.

Nancy Burson's works are exhibited in museums and galleries all over the world and are part of the collections of important museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City; the International Center of Photography, New York City; Museum of Modern Art, New York City; the Venice Biennale, Venice; the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Houston; and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago.

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