Viviane Sassen (b. 1972) first gained notice through her striking color photographs in which form and content balance on the edge of abstraction. Some of her earliest memories are of life in Kenya, where she spent three years as a child. When her family returned to the Netherlands in 1978, Sassen was troubled: “I didn’t feel like I belonged in Europe, and yet I knew I was a foreigner in Africa.” Ten years later, at age sixteen, Sassen revisited Kenya and has been traveling and working in Africa ever since. The photographs in this exhibition are from UMBRA, a new, multifaceted body of work in which shadow is often a metaphor for the human psyche. The human figure, the body, and the pose are major classical and artistic themes in her work; however, her play with realism and abstraction, which confuses our perception and leaves meaning open, is uniquely modern. Sassen compels us to reflect on the realistic character of photography by emphasizing the spectacular and poetic aspects of her work. Her work has been shown internationally, and she has published numerous books of her photography. She received first prize at the 2007 Prix de Rome, was featured in the central pavilion of the 2013 Venice Biennale, and was included in “New Photography” an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2011.
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