Taryn Simon · The Color of a Flea’s Eye

Taryn Simon · The Color of a Flea’s Eye

Taryn Simon · The Color of a Flea’s Eye · Gagosian Gallery

Taryn Simon — Picture Collection at New York Public Library

From 14 July to 11 September 2021, the Gagosian Gallery in New York presents “The Color of a Flea’s Eye: The Picture Collection”, an art project by the artist Taryn Simon.

Source: Gagosian Gallery. Image: Installation view, Taryn Simon: The Color of a Flea’s Eye: The Picture Collection, New York Public Library, 2020. © Taryn Simon. Photo: Rob McKeever

Ranging from photography to sculpture, video, sound and performance, Simon’s art projects involve extensive field research into archives, people and institutions, with the aim of uncovering the hidden systems of authority.

Taryn Simon focuses on the Picture Collection at the New York Public Library. In 1929, Romana Javitz became superintendent of the collection, and it was she who shaped its ethos and the processes governing its operation. She initiated a campaign to diversify the collection to include neglected subjects such as folk art, documentary photography, and portraits of African-American life. During its history, the Picture Collection was also a vital resource for artists, being used by Diego Rivera to create his Rockefeller Center mural, “Man at the Crossroads” (1932–33); and even Andy Warhol used this group of works to create his illustrations and paintings.

Fascinated by the Picture Collection since childhood, Taryn Simon began to study its patterns and codes, layering the images to reveal accidental juxtapositions that reveal hidden relationships and meanings. Simon’s research as set out in The Colour of a Flea’s Eyes (titled after the request of a patron of the New York Public Library in 1930) reveals the Picture Collection to be an unwitting record of changing social mores and relationships, revealing the invisible hands behind the seemingly neutral systems of image gathering.

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