EXHIBITION: BRIAN WEIL AT SMMOA

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Brian Weil, 1979-1995: Being in the World is on view at the Santa Monica Museum of Art until next Saturday, April 18. The exhibition features sixty works by Weil, from his late ’70s “Sex” series, which featured masked men and women in acts of bondage and bestiality (hired from personals ads in the Village Voice), to his worldwide AIDS activism in the late ’80s and ’90s. Weil became involved with ACT UP in New York, starting the first clean needle exchange program, and traveled to Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Thailand documenting the effects of the deadly virus and its social complexities in daily life. He also produced arresting portraits of such disparate subjects as Hasidic Jews in the New York Catskills and New Jersey female bodybuilders.

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Weil’s oeuvre is intimate, personal, and powerful on emotional and political levels. The rough patina produced by his photographic technique reflected his stance towards the politics of representation and subjective agency.

From the exhibition statement:

Weil made conscious formal decisions to convey the texture of each community’s experience while also respecting their dignity and insularity. His process involved re-photographing images from Super 8 film strips, then scratching and overexposing the negatives. The resulting images are both revealing and obscured, an aesthetics of withholding that enabled Weil to carve out an ethical position within the confines of still photography. Compared to the work of other participant-observer photographers of his time, Weil’s oeuvre is unique in its physical manipulation of the medium and distinct terms of exchange between photographer and subject. Brian Weil, 1979-95: Being in the World brings forward the work of this powerful artist whose practice resonates in contemporary debates about the politics of sexuality, activist aesthetics, and photographic representation.

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