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Personal Space: Self-Portraits on Paper

This exhibition, on view concurrently with Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits and Elsa Dorfman: Me and My Camera, presents approximately 60 contemporary self-portraits on paper, primarily drawn from the MFA’s collection. They include works by major artists known particularly for their focus on self-portraiture—such as Käthe Kollwitz and Jim Dine—as well as younger artists whose conceptual frameworks expand the definition of the genre. Highlights include Booster (1967), a monumental lithograph by Robert Rauschenberg that uses x-rays of the artist’s own body; an untitled lithograph (1990) by Kiki Smith in which Xerox transfers of the artist’s tangled hair become a Pollock-like abstraction; and Invisible (2004) by Kyung Sook Koo, made from impressions of the artist’s body covered in bubble wrap. Other works not to be missed include Willie Cole’s Man Spirit Mask (1991), a metaphorical triptych that uses the symbol of the household iron to suggest domestic servitude, the branding of slaves and the shape of African masks; and the newly acquired print series Runaways (1993) by Glenn Ligon, which mimics the tone of 19th-century broadsides advertising runaway slaves, but substitutes laconic descriptions of Ligon written by his friends, forming a kind of composite self-portrait. Also recently acquired is Balding (2017), a set of 21 meticulously rendered drawings by Cobi Moules, in which the artist—who is transitioning from female to male—uses extraordinary candor and humor to explore the many possibilities that await his future self. Moules is one of several local artists included in the exhibition, alongside Allan Rohan Crite, Jess Dugan, Michael Mazur and John Wilson.

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