Next Level: Sara Cwynar

Press release | Amsterdam, 17 March 2023

Foam is proud to present a large-scale solo exhibition by Sara Cwynar (b. 1985, Vancouver, CA), the seventh exhibition in the series Next Level. Sara Cwynar is a leading artist of her generation who seeks to make sense of our current visual culture through photography, essayistic video works, collages, installations and books. In her studio, she collects and documents images and objects to identify the ways that these everyday materials shape our lives as we consume them. In this way, she captures the prevailing ideals and ideologies of an era.

Through photographs taken from encyclopedias, the internet and a myriad of catalogues, excerpts from literary essays by leading thinkers such as Walter Benjamin, Vilém Flusser, Jean Baudrillard and Donna Haraway – as well as witty captions she plucks straight from Instagram – Cwynar gives chapter and verse to the process of imaging that shapes how we perceive the world. A common thread in Cwynar's work is her ongoing research into the effects of consumerism and how it subconsciously shapes our beauty and lifestyle ideals and subsequently, our self-image. Much of her work specifically focuses on the female consumer: from the cultural phenomenon of the New Woman of the turn of the nineteenth century until now.

New work will premiere in her solo exhibition, in which she examines not only the products, but also the buildings with which we shape our living environment. Her work is like an index to the Zeitgeist, charting which ideals we strive for and which are lost. In addition, the existing video work Red Film (2018) will be shown, in which the artist hangs upside down and shares her research findings, while interrupting and being interrupted by a male narrator. Red Film uses the perfect red lipstick to reveal and critique what and why we buy, what this says about society's expectations, how our desire is constantly fed, and what value we ascribe to all these products we surround ourselves with.

Like an anthropologist of our contemporary economy of endless choice, Sara Cwynar explores what the products, colours and images are with which we constantly shape our lives and identities and how they change over time. Through her work, she encourages the viewer to go beneath the surface of capitalism and modern visual culture to discover what is ‘real’. The outcome is a detailed examination of the mechanisms that guide and determine our perception, making her work as seductive as it is disturbing.

collage woman in classic dress with crown yellow bottom purple background

Foam & Sara Cwynar

Next Level: Sara Cwynar marks a long-standing relationship between Foam and the artist, who first exhibited in Amsterdam at Foam 3h in 2013 with her solo Everything in the Studio (Destroyed). In 2015, she was also chosen as one of the Foam Talents and her work was part of the exhibition Under Construction – New Positions in American Photography presented by Foam in 2014, which travelled on to Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, NY in 2015.

About the artist

In the ten years since her first solo at Foam, her career has swiftly taken off: Cwynar has participated in solo and group exhibitions at international museums including Remai Modern, Saskatoon (2021); The Guggenheim Museum, New York (2021); LACMA, Los Angeles (2020); the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (2019); Milwaukee Art Museum (2019); Oakville Galleries (2018); Minneapolis Institute of Art (2018); MMK Frankfurt (2017); Fondazione Prada (2016); and MoMA PS1 (2015). Her work is included in the collections of museums such as the Guggenheim Museum (New York), SFMoMA (San Francisco), Centre Pompidou (Paris), MoMA (New York) and Foam. In 2021, Aperture published her second book Glass Life and she has won several awards in recent years, including the Ammodo Tiger Short Award, twice for her video works Rose Gold (2017) and Red Film (2018) at IFFR. Sara Cwynar lives and works in Brooklyn, NY and is represented by Cooper Cole, Toronto and The Approach, London.

Next Level

Since the autumn of 2015, Foam has presented the exhibition series Next Level, with the support of Ammodo. The series is aimed at introducing a wider public to innovative art by relatively young artists who are making radical new use of the medium of photography. Previous editions featured the work of Anne de Vries, Melanie Bonajo, Anouk Kruithof, Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács, Dominic Hawgood and Jonathas de Andrade. For Next Level, Foam invites artists to create new work that is premiered in the exhibition.

Next Level: Sara Cwynar can be seen from 26 May – 24 September 2023 at Foam.

Keizersgracht 609 
1017 DS Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel. + 31 (0)20 5516500

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Next Level: Sara Cwynar is made possible by Ammodo and the Gieskes-Strijbis Fonds.

Foam is supported by the VriendenLoterij, Foam Members, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, the VandenEnde Foundation and the city of Amsterdam.

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