THE BLOG
03/25/2014 04:49 pm ET Updated May 25, 2014

Taryn Simon's "Bird's of the West Indies" at Gagosian Gallery (PHOTOS)

On Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, held a pre-Oscar exhibition of Taryn Simon's Birds of the West Indies (2013-14). I was only able to capture the first hour of the largely-packed opening, but was able to get a few images that night. Here is a collection of images that I considered my favorites from the night. For more on my ongoing N(art)rative Series read at the end of this article)

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A large crowd awaits the opening of Taryn Simon's Birds of the West Indies. Photo by EMS.

From the Gagosian website:
Taryn Simon's artistic medium consists of three integrated elements: photography, text, and graphic design. Her works demonstrate the impossibility of absolute understanding and investigate the space between text and image, where disorientation occurs and ambiguity reigns.

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Henry Winkler. Photo by EMS.

Taryn Simon's artistic medium consists of three integrated elements: photography, text, and graphic design. Her works demonstrate the impossibility of absolute understanding and investigate the space between text and image, where disorientation occurs and ambiguity reigns.

Simon's Birds of the West Indies (2013-14) is a two-part body of work, whose title is taken from the definitive taxonomy of the same name by the American ornithologist James Bond. Ian Fleming, an active bird watcher, appropriated the author's name for his novels' now well-known protagonist. This co-opting of a name was the first in a series of substitutions and replacements that would become central to the construction of the Bond narrative. The first element of the work is a photographic inventory of the women, weapons and vehicles of James Bond films made over the past fifty years. The images comprise an index of interchangeable variables used in the production of fantasy. Testing the seductive surfaces of popular cinema, Simon continues her artistic process of revealing the hidden infrastructures of cultural constructs. In the second element of the work, Simon casts herself as the ornithologist James Bond, identifying, photographing, and classifying all the birds that appear within the 24 films comprising the James Bond franchise. The result is a taxonomy of birds not unlike the original Birds of the West Indies. In this case, the birds are categorized by locations both actual and fictional: Switzerland, Afghanistan, North Korea, as well as the mythical settings of Bond's missions, such as the Republic of Isthmus and SPECTRE Island. Simon's discoveries often occupy a liminal space between reality and fiction; they are confined within the fictional space of the James Bond universe and yet wholly separate from it.

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Blythe Danner. Photo by EMS.

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Katherine Kramer. Photo by EMS.

Taryn Simon (b. 1975, New York) is a graduate of Brown University and a Guggenheim Fellow. Her photographs and writings have been the subject of monographic exhibitions at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2013); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2012); Tate Modern, London (2011); Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2011); Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (2008); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2007); Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2004); and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2003). Permanent collections include Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tate Modern, Whitney Museum of American Art, Centre Georges Pompidou, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Her work was included in the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011 and the Carnegie International in 2013. (end Gagosian website notes)

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Blythe Danner and Taryn Simon. Photo by EMS.

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Taryn Simon (center). Photo by EMS.

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Taryn Simon. Photo by EMS.

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A large crowd views rows of intimate photographs. Photo by EMS.

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Ed Moses and Bradford J Salamon. Photo by EMS.

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Photo by EMS.

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Steve Ziel and Chase Langford. Photo by EMS.

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Greg Gorman. Photo by EMS.

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John Waters. Photo by EMS.

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John Waters. Photo by EMS.

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Greg Gorman and John Waters. Photo by EMS.

(This article is part of an ongoing photojournalism survey of art exhibition openings in SoCal titled EMS N(art)rative. Through my lens I document a photographic essay or visual "N(art)rative" that captures the happenings, personalities, collectors, gallerists, artists, and the art itself; all elements that form the richly varied and textured fabric of the SoCal art world. This reconnaissance offers a unique view for serious art world players to obtain news and information on the current pulse of what's in the now, yet capturing timeless indelible images for posterity and legacy. Here is EMS N(art)rative Five.)

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