Yancey Richardson is pleased to present Knit Club, an exhibition of photographs by American artist Carolyn Drake. In the project gallery, a selection of work from her series Isolation Therapy will be on view. Strikingly different in subject matter and approach, each series offers the viewer an alternate view of reality that deliberately blurs the line between what is real and imagined. This is the artist’s debut exhibition with the gallery.
The works on view in the main gallery are drawn from the series Knit Club, the result of a several-years-long collaboration with a group of women Drake met while living in Water Valley, Mississippi. Drake shies away from literal descriptions, and leans toward the surreal and mysterious to present a different perspective on southern femininity and motherhood. The viewer is encouraged to question preconceptions of what it means to be a “woman.” The male gaze is disavowed through the obscuring of subjects’ faces and bodies, allowing the women to reclaim the ability to craft their own stories. Influenced by the writer William Faulkner, the images are enigmatic, Gothic in style, and richly layered with a symbolism that resists interpretation. As with much of her earlier work, Drake’s subjects are also artists, integral to the construction of the photographs.
In the project gallery is a presentation of six works from the series Isolation Therapy, recently included in SFMOMA’s group show Close to Home: Creativity in Crisis. During the initial lockdowns of 2020, a new mode of photographing emerged for Drake, shaped by the restrictions and highly structured. Each day in her backyard, the artist brought together incongruous materials drawn from her house and the outdoor environment, cutting, stacking, and precariously pinning them together.
Provisional, totem-like structures emerged and were photographed by Drake against brightly-colored tarps or cloths, forming a makeshift studio. These agglomerations of household objects, tree branches, printed material and vegetation take on an anthropomorphic quality both humorous and unnerving to behold.
A surveillance camera inserted into the sculptures further animates them, gifting them the ability to observe the artist as she documents and orchestrates their transformation. As with Knit Club, Drake complicates the traditional power dynamic between photographer and subject. By having the sculptures record her every move, Isolation Therapy also speaks to questions of agency, boundaries between public and private observation, and our heightened dependence on technology during the pandemic.
Born in California in 1971, Drake studied Media/Culture and History at Brown University, graduating in 1994. Her work has been supported by a Guggenheim fellowship, the Anamorphosis Prize book prize, Peter S Reed Foundation, Lightwork, the Do Good Fund, the Lange Taylor prize, Magnum Foundation, Pulitzer Center, and a Fulbright fellowship. She is a member of Magnum Photos and a recipient of the HCB Award 2021. In October 2023, a new body of work exploring southern masculinity will be presented in a solo exhibition at The Henri Cartier Bresson Foundation, Paris.