This Is Not a Selfie: Photographic Self-Portraits from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection

  • Angled from below, a stylish young blonde woman with a short mod haircut. She has heavy eyeliner and mascara, and is holding holding what looks like mail, as she looks off to the left, where someone else sits in a white wooden-backed chair, revealing their back.

    Cindy Sherman
    Untitled, Film Still #5, 1977
    Gelatin silver print
    6 ¾ × 9 ½ inches
    The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection

  • The entryway of a museum gallery. On the wall is the title, This is Not a Selfie, in orange font. On either sides are open spaces, with framed artwork hanging in the background.

    JKA photography

  • A white man with long frizzy hair, with a cigar in his mouth looks directly at the viewer. He wears Native American clothing consisting of boot moccasins, a fringed leather top and skirt. His arms rest jauntily on his waist, as though daring someone something.

    Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon)
    Self-Portrait in Indian Costume, circa 1863
    Albumen silver print
    6 1/8 × 4 1/16 inches
    The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection Photography

  • A gallery filled with black and white framed photographs. In the foreground is a wooden bench. To the left another gallery is partially visible, also with art on its walls.  "This is Not a Selfie" is on the wall with many smaller framed photographs grouped together.

    JKA photography

  • In nature, set against large trees, 7 nearly identical women read, look away, lay on the dirt with a laptop, sit on top of a high branch, sit on a low branch, and hold onto another nearby tree. All figures wear similar versions of the same long-sleeved skirted outfit.

    Lisa Anne Auerbach
    Take this Knitting Machine and Shove It, 2009
    Inkjet print
    20 × 40 inches
    Los Angeles County Museum of Art
    The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection

  • A large gallery with white walls. The opening between different rooms allows the viewer to see into other galleries through another wall opening. On the walls are various framed photographs, their contents too small to distinguish, set against gigantic walls, in big rooms.

    JKA photography

  • An extreme closeup of a disco ball. Reflected partially in some of the disco ball mirrors is a young red-headed woman taking a selfie with her phone. Her likeness is refracted and visible in a small curvature of the disco ball.

    Anne Collier
    Mirror Ball, 2014
    27 3/16 × 26 13/16 inches
    Los Angeles County Museum of Art © Anne Collier, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

  • A round painting of a person who looks like Frida Kahlo, but it is not Kahlo's work. A monkey sits on the Kahlo's lookalike's shoulder. On either side of the portrait are much smaller black and white photographs portraits of people.

    JKA photography

  • A cream and black photo of a black man holding his relaxed arms behind his back. He looks at the camera, with his body faced to the side, with one leg leaning forward. The photo is surrounded by a blue frame that features green and yellow leaves.

    Malick Sidibé
    Malick lui même (Malick himself), 1972 (printed 2003)
    Gelatin silver print
    7 3/16 × 5 1/8 inches
    Los Angeles County Museum of Art
    The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection

    A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you, the less you know.

    —Diane Arbus

    Social media sites, beginning with Flickr as early as 2004 and soon followed by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, have helped to popularize the selfie by encouraging users to tag and share their photos online. Ten years later, Ellen DeGeneres caused a frenzy on social media when she tweeted her now legendary 2014 Oscar selfie with Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper (who took the picture), and other stars. Shared a staggering two million times, her post became the most retweeted photograph of all time and confirmed the selfie as a ubiquitous form of contemporary self-representation.

    Today, millions of selfies—from the funny and self-deprecating to the private and sexually explicit—are shared with friends and strangers around the world. But is the selfie the same as the fine art genre of photographic self-portraiture? How are these two forms of photographic self-expression different? Why is it important to make the distinction between the two practices?

    Organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), This Is Not a Selfie: Photographic Self-Portraits from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection makes its debut at the San Jose Museum of Art. This exhibition features LACMA’s stellar permanent holdings of photography and offers a compelling look at the primacy and variety of expressions within self-portraiture from the vantage of the “Age of the Selfie.”

    “In their self-portraits, artists evoke not only who they are as people and what ideas they are exploring, but also who we are as a culture,” writes Deborah Irmas, photography historian and guest curator of the exhibition. “By presenting themselves, these artists allow us to look beyond them, to gain a deeper understanding of what it means for people to live in a complex world of images.” With the selfie firmly in place, it is a particularly prescient moment to revisit the enduring pursuit of the photographic self.

    This Is Not a Selfie includes some of the most iconic and groundbreaking images in photographic history produced by artists such as Diane Arbus, Robert Mapplethorpe, Catherine Opie, Cindy Sherman, Alfred Stieglitz, Lorna Simpson, and Andy Warhol. The exhibition traces themes of self-reflection, performance, confrontation, and memory from early nineteenth-century experiments through contemporary digital techniques in sixty-six outstanding photographic self-portraits drawn entirely from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection, the most significant collection of the subject in the United States.

    Also included in this exhibition are works by Berenice Abbott, Mehemed Fehmy Agha, Joseph Beuys, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Anne Collier, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Nan Goldin, Yves Klein, Danny Lyon, Vik Muniz, Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon), Bruce Nauman, Helmut Newton, Leonard Nimoy, Chino Otsuka, Sigmar Polke, and William Wegman, among others.

    An illustrated, print-on-demand catalogue will accompany the exhibition, with essays written by Deborah Irmas as guest curator along with Eve Schillo, Assistant Curator, LACMA, and the team at the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department at LACMA, along with a foreword by SJMA’s Oshman Executive Director Sayre Batton.

    This Is Not a Selfie: Photographic Self-Portraits from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection is organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Deborah Irmas as guest curator along with Eve Schillo, assistant curator, LACMA, with the curatorial team of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department at LACMA. SJMA’s presentation is organized by Rory Padeken, associate curator.

    Sponsored by Applied Materials Foundation, the Richard A. Karp Charitable Foundation, Theres and Dennis Rohan, and Dr. Jan Newstrom Thompson and Paul Goldstein.

    Virtual preview of This Is Not a Selfie with Rory Padeken, associate curator, and Jeff Bordona, director of education.


    10 fall 2017 exhibitions not to be missed, San Francisco Chronicle
    August 25, 2017

    Photographers spin their own illusions in ‘Not a Selfie’ at San Jose Museum of Art, Mercury News
    September 11, 2017

    Fall Arts Preview: 69 Exhibits, Films, Dance Festivals, Musicals, Plays, Lit Events + More Bay Area Performances, 7x7
    September 11, 2017

    A Museum Show That Welcomes Selfies, KQED Arts
    September 13, 2017