Ingraham a profession notorious for taking itself too seriously, the Contemporary Art Gallery’s latest exhibition, Playing Homage, curated by Jenifer Papararo, is a refreshingly self-reflective look at the artist as subject. This group show features international artists Martin Kippenberger, Evan Lee, Kerstin Cmelka, Rodney Graham, Christos Dikeakos, Martha Wilson, Ming Wong, Andrea Fraser, and Mark Leckey.

Artists often try to push against the limiting stereotypes that surround both them and the art world in general.  In creating these works, the artists have done an effective job of addressing these views, and by stepping into the stereotypes in many of the works, actually manage to refute it.  Papararo’s choice of pieces creates the feeling that one has just entered an exclusive inner circle, and is invited to be as critical as the artists have been.

The artists all approach the theme from a different angle; Martin Kippenberger’s exhibition posters, “Candidature à une retrospective”, 1993, feature himself to emphasize the celebrity of the artist over the art, Andrea Fraser’s “Kunst Muss Hängen”, 2001, looks at the self-destructive stereotype of the artist by recreating a speech given by Kippenberger when he was intoxicated, and Evan Lee’s “Photographic Nude Studies by the Artist and his Father”, c.1950/2009, shows Lee taking on the role of amateur photographer by recreating his father’s female nudes from the 1950’s.  While the method and focus may be different in each work, the overall aim of the show is to examine the way the artist persona functions in our society, both as an internal representation of self or the external stereotyping that artists are confronted with.

Upon entering the gallery, one is initially met with Rodney Graham’s large format work “My Late Early Styles (Part 1, The Middle Period)”, 2007-09, which epitomises the show as a whole.  In this work, Graham plays the painter, standing before a wall of his own paintings.  Originally used as a promotional image for an exhibition, Rodney’s confrontational stance and expression in the image is highlighted by the scale of the work and creates the impression of an ego that seems to jump out of the frame.  With an established history of acting in his own works, one is easily able to accept the role of painter that Graham is taking, but as the paintings behind him are actually his own, it is unclear whether he is honestly trying to represent painters, or to mock the stereotype of the artist in general.

Though there are some problems with the layout of the show, in particular the choice to place all of the films so close together that it was difficult to focus on any one intently, the show is extremely successful as it offers a wide range of interpretations of the realities as well as the perceived experience of being a contemporary artist.  Papararo’s curatorial essay is particularly helpful in breaking down the work and making it accessible to a general audience, offering historical relevance and clear interpretation.  Playing Homage is witty, cynical, and often, laugh out loud funny, and though the persona of the artist is not going to disappear, the show’s delightfully irreverent theme opens the door to question the legitimacy of an assumption that is often accepted as fact.