Double Portrait is Em Rooney's first solo exhibition in Mexico and at PEANA. The artist's multimedia practice is anchored in a study of film, photography, and the material indices of these seemingly ephemeral, auratic genres. Earlier iterations of her work can be seen in sculptural containers framing analogue photographs, the images deliberately pedestrian and yet narratively opaque, invoking a sense of everyday mystery. Working with industrial materials, which engage tactility and imply a substantive weight to their contents, Rooney’s pieces expose and revere the experiential worlds of women and girls.
"There’s a small conceptual leap between women in fiction and woman as fiction," says Ashton Cooper in his introduction to an interview with the artist for Artforum. Rooney falls precisely within this leap, creating and pulsating with vibrant, colorful materials, playing with tactility and space to create her own imagery. The sculptures’ titles featured in this show are taken from, "Planetarium," a poem by Adrienne Rich, which aptly describes Rooney's process:
I am an instrument in the shape
of a woman trying to translate pulsations
into images for the relief of the body
and the reconstruction of the mind.
Double Portrait will be Rooney's first show that does not directly display photographs for the matter. Her sculptural forms retain symbolic traces of images, derived, for example, from a catalogue of equestrian harnessing or formally tethered to films such as Amarcord by Federico Fellini or The Conversation by Francis Ford Coppola.
Exploring the interplay between image and sculpture, considered mostly unrelated practices, Rooney creates personal fictions, narrations that combine fragments of her own life, films, and their relation to women and their bodies. Held by a metal spine, the artists give life to forms crafted from fragments of femininity; sexuality, flowers as vulvas, adornment, beads, silk and elegance infuse Rooney’s process and are ambiguously intertwined.
Em Rooney’s (b. 1983, Bridgeport) recent exhibitions include solo shows, Entrance of a Butterfly at Derosia, New York (2022), Women in Fiction at Francois Ghebaly, Los Angeles (2020), and Ordinary Time at Derosia, New York (2018), as well as group show Being: New Photography at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2018) - which led to the acquirement of her work by the MoMA collection - among many others. She has received several prizes and grants such as the Pollock-Krasner grant for Emergency Fellowship, Shandaken at Storm King Artist in Residence and The Chinati Foundation Artists Residency Program. Rooney’s practice is grounded in a devotion to academia, and she has participated as a visiting lecturer at institutions such as Columbia School of Visual Arts and Cranbrook, to mention a few.