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Memory Cards

Jul 13 - Sep 3, 2017

Jo Spence

The Highest Product of Capitalism, 1979

Black and White Photograph

11.9 x 15.9 in. (30.4 x 40.5 cm.)

Jo Spence
“I feel as though making the private public, and portraying significant moments of your intimate lives, is the rawest form of art, and for me the most influential.” – Jo Spence.

Shin Gallery is pleased to present Jo Spence: Memory Cards, a solo exhibition featuring the works of Jo Spence. Inspired by New York’s recent celebrations of prominent female photographers, including Nan Goldin at the MOMA and Diane Arbus at the Met Bruer, Shin Gallery is honored to commemorate the works of Jo Spence, a perhaps underrated, iconic British female photographer who was able to capture the raw moments and portraits of her own body to pronounce both bold political stances and feminist themes.

Heavily influenced by Nan Goldin, who was able to prematurely capture the rise of the AIDS epidemic in the 80's through her camera lens, Jo Spence used her camera to confront her own looming destiny as she struggled to battle breast cancer for over a decade. She passed away from leukemia in 1992. Although not renowned during her career, her photographs have become critically acclaimed. Today, Spence is best known for her works that capture the rare, transparency and open qualities of the female body and it’s relationship to sickness and extreme vulnerabilities.

In this exhibition, Shin Gallery displays a range of works made in her lifetime. This show is unique in that it showcases some of her more prominent projects, including: A Picture of Health: Property of Jo Spence?, 1982. This picture was taken before she had her cancerous lump removed, with intentions to express her own feelings of inadequacy for the British public health care system at the time. A long-term patient, she often felt that these institutions treated their patients as mere objects rather than actual persons. She further documented the physical changes that she was undergoing through her different kinds of cancer treatments, including the recording of her scars left from surgeries. Her personal ties with this intimate subject matter, unhappily, dates back to her teens when her mother was first diagnosed with cancer while Spence was in high school. Thus, her relationship with this work began long before her own victim-hood.

Jo Spence’s photographs are powerful in that they bring to light this shame and pain that cancer victims often hide out of humiliation. In this rare exhibition, photographs specifically from Spence’s Photo Therapy collection are also featured. Through her work, she often attempted to conquer her illness by shedding luminosity on a painful reality. In doing so, Spence pioneered the practice of photo therapy, stating that "Through photo therapy, I was able to explore how I felt about my powerlessness as a patient, my relationship to doctors and nurses, my infantilisation whilst being managed and 'processed' within a state institution, and my memories of my parents.”

Shin Gallery feels a personal connection in sharing the works of Jo Spence. There is an emotional power and courageousness that comes with being able to channel the struggles of defeating one’s personal illness into a raw form of expressionism, beauty, and art.