Make Room is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new works by Polish-American artist Ilona Szwarc, Unsex Me Here, on view from April 27 to June 1, 2019. Set in a dreamlike borderland somewhere between the glitz of Hollywood Regency and the forests of European fairy tales, Unsex me here is an ambiguous parable about sex, nature, memory, and repressed wildness. The title of the exhibition is derived from William Shakespeare’s character Lady Macbeth, and her plea to unclean spirits to transform her from a soft-hearted woman into someone capable of unflinching acts of “direst cruelty.” Szwarc finds her subject, like Lady Macbeth, in a moment of arrested psychological and bodily change, with all the nascent dangers those developments entail. Unsex me here is Szwarc’s most narrative body of work to date.
Born in Warsaw, Szwarc spent her adolescence in the small town of Canadian, Texas. She draws from her own coming-of-age experience of cultural dysphoria to explore shifts in time, body, and the composition of memory. To create her work, Szwarc draws broadly from Bildungsromans, psychoanalytic tracts, makeup tutorial videos, and the history of female self-portraiture. She trawls Craigslist and eBay to find the material of her worlds, and employs a vocabulary of production -- overt prosthetics, ornate scenery, and staged lighting -- to collapse the distance between viewer, photographer, and subject. In these images, the changes are both real and surreal; the memories true and false; the danger at once as removed as an old wives tale and as close as a stranger in the mirror.
Ilona Szwarc (b. 1984, Warsaw, lives and works in Los Angeles, CA) received an MFA in Photography from Yale University and a BFA from the School of Visual Arts. Unsex me here is her first solo exhibition with Make Room. Szwarc’s recent solo exhibitions include AALA Gallery, Los Angeles; Instytut Fotografii Fort and Leica Gallery, Warsaw; Amerikahaus, Munich. She has participated in group exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb; Fotografiska Museum, Stockholm; Shulamit Nazarian Gallery, and Regen Projects, Los Angeles; Danziger Gallery and International Center for Photography, New York; among others. Among her awards and grants, she has received the Richard Benson Prize for Excellence in Photography (2015) and the Arnold Newman Prize for New Directions in Photographic Portraiture (2014). Her works have been featured in numerous publications worldwide including The New York Times Magazine, Vogue, FOAM, National Geographic, and The New Yorker.