Matèria is pleased to announce the opening of Sunil Gupta’s first gallery solo show in Italy titled Emerge into Light. Showcased in the exhibition - accompanied by a curatorial contribution and text by Mark Sealy - are two of Gupta’s key works, Christopher Street (1976) and From Here to Eternity (1999 - 2020).
Over the course of a career spanning more than four decades, Sunil Gupta has maintained a visionary approach to photography, producing pioneering works in their social and political commentary, in which the autobiographical and public element deeply blend. The artist’s diasporic experience, made up of multiple cultures, informs a practice on racial themes, migration and queer identity - his lived experience is a starting point for photographic projects, born from the desire to see himself and others like him represented in the history of art.
Christopher Street is the first series produced by Gupta as an artist. Following a move from Montreal to New York, Gupta documents an unraveling social and cultural revolution: the city had profoundly changed following the 1969 Stonewall riots which led to a turning point in the affirmation of gay identity, the streets of the West Village and the people who inhabited them were the symbol of a new openness and unprecedented acceptance.
The photographs in Christopher Street merge the public with the personal. Moreover, if on the one hand the series reflects the heady atmosphere of the era of the liberation of the gay community, on the other it represents the “coming out” of Gupta as an artist. Rather than a nostalgic time capsule, the photographs reveal a community that has shaped the artist, cementing his dedication to portraying those who have been denied a space to be themselves.
From Here to Eternity represents a subsequent and fundamental chapter in the artist’s life and practice. The body work, originally produced in 1999, was subsequently expanded and encapsulated in the homonymous book published by Autograph in 2020, becoming - through a composition of the book spreads - the subject matter for the immersive and site specific wall installation presented in the gallery’s most intimate and circumscribed space. The six diptychs originally produced for the series in 1999, as a response to a period of illness caused by HIV, are a representational tool for reflection on the effects of the virus on the artist’s life. As Gupta recounts: From Here to Eternity is an interpretation of HIV and its effects on the Third World body, a map of my local context, London as a location that is a focal point of attitudes towards survivors and their treatments. It feels that the background of sexual politics and their erosion in the onslaught of ‘in your face’ commercial sexuality have left people living with HIV to deal with the larger ethical questions involved in complete isolation. The body of work, from its conception to the darkroom printing process, provides a lens through which to see a way out of the virus and an instrument for self- healing; becoming generative of a new sense of purpose and hope.
Emerge into Light represents a unique opportunity to engage with two fundamental works; both key to the understanding of the process and formation of personal identity in a time of crisis.