contemporary art / history of art

Artwork of the Month / June 2024

Manjari Sharma & Irina Rozovsky

iPhone photographs presented as archival pigment prints
13 inches x 19 inches
Edition of 2

The presented photographic diptych by Manjari Sharma & Irina Rozovsky is part of their series “To See Your Face” from 2017. It shows on its left part a hand mirror with a droplet of a red liquid and on the right a disc of watermelon.

In the left image, a left hand holds the green-framed folding mirror, in front of a white/greyish background. Besides the reflected droplet and a part of the holding hand on the upper half of the looking glass, there is the reflection of a face in another frame. Due to the size, only a section of the eye area is visible, which is again returned on the lower mirror plan and underlays the initial image of the droplet. In the right image, the photo of the watermelon resumes the two prominent shades of the other picture by its colours red and green. However, the colours are here more dominant since the slice takes most of the image plane. Additionally, the left part of the upper background repeats the grey background of the first photo. Though, the crystalline structured area progresses to light blue and then to white in the upper right corner due a light source in this position. By this illuminant, the watermelon appears slightly transparent, so that the seeds and the organic structure become visible.

Despite the very different content, the photos fit formally together. Besides the recurrence of the highlighting red-green complimentary contrast there is also a repetition of the form. The droplet concentrates in a rotund point. This curvature finds its equivalent in the arc of the disc’s section and parts of the organic shapes of the fruit. Moreover, the transparency of the red melon flesh is repeated by the diaphanous upper part of the droplet. In consequence, both image parts unite to a harmonic entity, even though, the photos were originally made relatively independent from each other.

These two images resulting from the series of pictures initially commissioned for the exhibition “Talking Pictures: Camera-Phone Conversations Between Artists” by the curator Mia Fineman for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. The artists were asked to play a pictorial ping pong during a five-month period, from November 2016 to April 2017. Throughout the conversation, Manjari and Irina discovered they were both pregnant. Therefore, the last pictures in the chronological presentation at the Met and later in the Louisiana Museum, Denmark and Kunsthalle Munich, Germany ended with images of their newborns.

Already in the earlier photos, the prenatal period is reflected. The red liquid droplet on the folding mirror emerged on the glass after the self-examination by one of the artists, because of a vaginal blood loss related to the pregnancy. This self-reflection was a kind of scientific approach, underlined by the observing eyes in the picture. Moreover, the blood stain on the glass reminds a liquid on a microscope slide, ready to be studied. On one hand, this methodical attempt points to the rational consideration of the gravidity. At the same time, it refers to the sometimes disquieting and perhaps even violent changes to which the female body is subjected during this special period.

Also, the from the back illuminated watermelon could recall the look through a microscope. Nevertheless, fruits refer to female fertility, inter alia because fruits are nourishing and protecting seeds like the uterus bears the unborn life. In particular, the watermelon with its high water-content suggests a relation to amniotic fluid and its red colour make an allusion to the well with blood supplied uterus. Additionally, the organic structures in the flesh of the fruit remind ovaries. With that, the image of the watermelon could stand for the joyful experience of pregnancy. Regarding this supposition of different aspects of gravidity and childbirth, the diptych expresses the various feelings the artists had passed in this particular time.

However, the pairing of the two photos is not the one presented in the exhibitions. In the following, an iteration of the series plays with breaking from the initial linearity, which resulted from the alternating exchange of photos. In consequence, they created new pairs beyond the chronology. Since this led to self-contained diptychs, the authorship of the single picture became obsolete. Thus, the newly arisen artworks are attributed to both artists equally and got an independent life.


Manjari Sharma

Born 1979 in Mumbai, India, Manjari Sharma studied Visual Communication at the S.N.D.T. University in Mumbai and subsequently worked as photojournalist for The Times of India and Better Photography, the leading south Asian photography magazine. In 2001, her research for images brought her to the United States, where she graduated at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio.

Living in New York City, Manjari became known with her long-term project “The Shower Series” (2009-2013) were she invited people to take a shower in her home. It dealt with the materiality of water and investigated at the same time the inner landscape of the human mind. Photos of the series were presented on numerous blogs and travelled to galleries and festivals around the world. Initiated in 2019, her still ongoing project “Surface Tension” returns to the element of water, though now she added sound, motion and projection.

Besides her cultural curiosity and her interest in the internal human conditions, she explores its strong connection to the sacred relationship to ritual, identity, memory, and mythology. Raised in Mumbai, her homeland, she questions Indian culture and traditions (Darshan, 2011-13, How to wear a Sari, since 2014) and refers to her personal experiences and her family (Loss and Resurrection, since 2011). Increasingly, the artist includes means of expression beyond Still photography in her oeuvre. Since 2017, she cooperates with Irina Rozovsky for the series “To See Your Face”, which was originally commissioned for the Talking Pictures exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here join observations of natural settings, the built world and society with private views. Planned as limited five-month pictorial dialogue between the two artists, they continued to reorganise the original image pairs. One of these diptychs is our Artwork of the Month / June 2024.

Manjari travelled not only in the US and India, but also to many other countries. Besides numerous solo and group exhibitions mainly in the US, her works even made journeys to Europe (Denmark, Germany, Spain) and are represented in numerous private and public collections. Moreover, they are regularly reviewed in prominent newspapers, journals and TV channels. She was granted several awards and honours. As passionate teacher, she held many lectures and workshops and is an associate professor at Art Center College of Design. Additionally, she published several photo books.

Manjari lives and works in Los Angeles, United States.


Irina Rozovsky

Born 1981 in Moscow, Russia, Irina Rozovsky moved with her parents to the United States at the age of 8 years. She studied at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, Massachusetts.

In her work, Irina searches inspiration by discovering new worlds. This could be so far unknown countries or special places close to her home. Instead of arranging a particular vision on her subject, she operates with spontaneity and intuition, to capture the ephemeral moment and atmosphere. In doing so, the “camera acts as a collaborator in this experience – photographing, for Rozovsky, is a way of getting to know a place and feeling its essence, a way of capturing the enchantment of the unfamiliar and the fleeting sense of connection that she shares with her subjects” as stated by Eugenie Shinkle. Operating often in conflict areas, the artist prefers to remain the impartial observer instead of confirming existing stereotypes. This “neutral” view is exemplary in her series “One to Nothing” (2008-2010), originating from a journey to Israel. The artist shows the daily life of the two main population groups, the contrasts in the landscape and the traces of the enduring conflict, like modern ruins, without judgement.

Island In My Mind” (2012-2014) is the result of her voyage to Cuba. Beside images of the vitality of the country and its inhabitants, Irina places photos of silent moments, impressions of the landscape and the daily life. Since 2014, she works on the series “Mountain Black Heart”, which is based on her travel to the Balkans (Former Yugoslavia and neighbouring countries). Here she portraits single persons, urban environments and the countryside.

For other projects, Irina focussed on special places in the United States. “A Rock That Floats …” (2014-15) outlines her impressions, while riding on Americas backroads. Whereas she took the Route 15, the “Traditions Highway” (2017- present) a thoroughfare in Georgia, which is a kind of travel diary. “In Plain Air” (2011-2020) she depicts leisurely moments in the Prospect Park in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Since 2017, Irina cooperates with Manjari Sharma for the series “To See Your Face”, which was originally commissioned for the Talking Pictures exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here join observations of natural settings, the built world and society with private views. Planned as limited five-month pictorial dialogue between the two artists, they continued to reorganise the original image pairs. One of these diptychs is our Artwork of the Month / June 2024.

Besides Irina’s travel-based series, her photographs are placed in other contexts, like for “Miracle Center” (2019-2020), where she inserted her images into found frames. Many are placed in travel frames, with double or multiple pictures, so that diptychs and small series are created. Moreover, many of the artist’s series are published as photobooks.

Irina had many solo exhibitions and participated in group shows and artists talks. Her works are represented in several collections, like The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of the City of New York. Additionally, she shares her artistic experience in the photography workshop space “The Humid”, which she runs with her husband Mark Steinmetz.

Irina lives and works in Athens, Georgia, United States.