HANDPRINT PORTRAITS, SOUTH AFRICAN ARTISTS 2011-2013 and HIGHLY PERSONAL 2019
Gary Schneider has been making his handprint portraits for nearly two decades. In 2011, on a trip to his native South Africa—the country he had left in 1977 at the age of 23—for an exhibition at David Krut Projects, he began making handprint portraits of South African artists and realised that this was the start of a new project . On several subsequent trips, he travelled widely, and invited artists to make their handprint with him. In the process he talked to many artists, curators and critics, gaining insight into the complexities of the post-apartheid art landscape
Of his technique and method, Schneider says he has followed the same simple script since 1996:
"I set up a process where the subject is responsible for the information deposited in the film emulsion—they make their self-portrait under my supervision. The variables are their performance and gesture, the physical shape of the hand, their body chemistry, and their relationship to me. All of this information is recorded in the emulsion.
I have in mind other famous imprints such as those in the caves of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc (the earliest known examples of self-identification), the Shroud of Turin, Marcel Duchamp’s Female Fig Leaf, Yves Klein’s body prints, Jasper Johns’s Studies for Skin, and 19th-century spirit photography.
The darkroom becomes a kind of confessional … the sweat and heat imprinted into the film are forensic. The reading of this information is, however, not scientific but metaphorical. It is important to me that these handprints do not reveal race, economic status, gender or age. They are, to me, as expressive as any portrait of a face, but more private, and perhaps more revealing. They allow me to explore the marriage of art and science, identity and obscurity, figuration and abstraction, the carnal and the spiritual ...."
An impressive, wide-ranging list of subjects has been compiled for this project. Inclusion is determined by aesthetic considerations (which prints are the most interesting to look at), by practicalities (who was available during Schneider’s visits to South Africa), and by the politics at play in the post-apartheid South African art world (who wished to be included, who preferred to be excluded). Schneider talked to many artists in the process and found that the discussions he had were sometimes as interesting as making the portraits: ‘I embarked on this project in order to meet South African artists, so even the communications via email, sms or phone with some of the artists not included here have made this journey enormously successful.’
2019 Highly Personal: South African Artists and Their HandPrint Portraits
Catalog. Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago, IL.
2015 HandBook: South African Artists
2011 Review. Heller, Maxwell. "What a (Self) Portrait Can Do. Picturing South Africa in New York". The Brooklyn Rail, Brooklyn, NY, December 11, 2011. Review. Aletti, Vince. The New Yorker, New York, NY. October 3, p. 12.
2014 “Contemporary Art/South Africa”, curated by Yale PH.D candidates under the mentorship of Kate Ezra, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT. Group
2013 “ON PHOTOGRAPHY: Culture, History and the Narrartive”, curators LaToya Ruby Frazier and Aubrey Kauffman, Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers, New Brunswick, NJ. Group