Paula Cooper Gallery is delighted to present new video and photographic works by London-based artist Carey Young, including the US debut of Appearance (2023), her ambitious forty-nine-minute silent video featuring female judges. First seen in the artist’s major, critically acclaimed one-person exhibition at Modern Art Oxford in 2023, Appearance expands Young’s twenty-year investigation of the law.
Revisiting Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, Young invited fifteen diverse British judges to pose one by one, seated in a judicial chair in a stark white film studio. Young’s sitters include two UK Supreme Court judges; the UK’s youngest ever female judge, now aged thirty-seven; and the UK’s only trans female judge. Close-up shots linger on an expressive range of sartorial choices: power heels, a hijab, gold-trimmed finery, dyed-blue hair, an afro, or the frayed edges of a robe threadbare from years of service. The judges defy the stereotypes of judicial identity and Young examines the trappings of their authority, her close-ups evoking their personalities, emotions, and cultural or ethnic heritage. Presented on a grand scale, Appearance explores the power relations between judge and camera and ideas of judgement between artist, judge, and viewer, while deftly proposing an alternative world of absolute female authority.
Surfaces of Law, Young’s new photographic series, portrays details of courthouses, prisons, law firms and law schools to consider how architecture can serve as a metaphor for the law itself. In the artist’s words, “the project explores the ‘materiality’ of law as a lived and living system which people experience emotionally and haptically, no matter the nature of their interface with ‘the law’.” Selected photographs from the series feature cells, prison seating and beds, security areas, and other disciplinary or carceral spaces in Belgium, Switzerland, and France. Whilst evoking the absent bodies of the suspect, the guard or the imprisoned, Young’s use of grids, saturated colour and sharp rectilinear planes visually conflate artistic ideas of abstraction with law, institutional and state power.
The photograph World Court (2023) depicts a top-down view of the judges’ bench at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, otherwise termed the ‘World Court’, where key trials of international law are presided. The tablecloth’s sumptuous red velvet has retained the marks of judicial hand gestures, which to Young not only have a painterly quality but also symbolize the theatricality and performative force of law, the emotional and bodily impacts of the legal, and its ability to protect, prevent, and punish.
Lastly, the photograph Court Artist (Supreme Court) (2023) presents a reflection of the artist captured in a framed photograph of the US Supreme Court from 1981, which includes Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve as a US Supreme Court justice, who died in December 2023. The image relates the artist's body and identity to the judicial portrait as a genre - which has almost always featured men.
Appearance was made possible thanks to the support of Arts Council England, Modern Art Oxford Commissioning Circle and University College London. Special thanks to the participating judges, The Lord Chief Justice, Prof. Cheryl Thomas (UCL), Ede & Ravenscroft and the Slade School of Fine Art.