06 December 2014 - 15 March 2015

Yvonne Todd: Creamy Psychology

New Zealand photographer Yvonne Todd is taking over both floors of City Gallery.  Around 150 photographs will feature in her survey exhibition. It's the first time City Gallery has given over so much space to one artist. Creamy Psychology showcases the breadth of Todd's work since the late 1990s and aims to expand our understanding and appreciation of it. The show includes a display of Todd's collection of vintage designer gowns that feature in her images (some previously owned by the likes of  Liza Minnelli and Whitney Houston); and photographs by other artists that are reference points for her (including Diane Arbus, Bernd and Hilla Becher and Mike Disfarmer).

"Since the early 2000s, Yvonne Todd has emerged as an uncannily subtle exponent of what might be called The Aesthetics of Meanness, an artist who pursues social discomfort—ours included—as tenaciously as Ansel Adams pursued light on the flanks of Yosemite." Justin Paton.

Todd uses the generic language of commercial studio photography and quotes mainstream pop-culture, but she produces off-kilter images that express a personal mythology. She is best known for her images of female ‘characters’. These portraits are highly styled; using wigs, costumes, makeup and even false teeth. Todd women seem to suffer from some soap-operatic malaise, explicit or implicit, be they cosmeticians, cripples, modest Christians, anorexics, cult members, showgirls or tragic heiresses. Her work has a complex relation with feminism.

"My favourite author when I was twelve or thirteen, Virgina Andrews, wrote gothic tales of beautiful teenage girls involuntarily corrupted by perverse ancestral legacies. The artwork of the books added to this intrigue... like Hallmark sympathy cards, they possessed a combination of limp serenity and shrill unease." Yvonne Todd.

A new book of the same name accompanys the exhibition, available from the front desk for $50 or by emailing to order your copy. Published by Victoria University Press, with support from Creative New Zealand, it features contributions from Todd, Auckland University’s Misha Kavka (on Todd and daytime TV), art critic Megan Dunn (on Todd, Karen Carpenter and anorexia), curator Robert Leonard (on Todd and cults), Te Papa curator Claire Regnault (on Todd and costume)  and Anthony Byrt (on Todd’s project reprinting her cousin Gilbert Melrose’s small town community photographs) plus an anthology of earlier writings.

Yvonne Todd was born in 1973 in Takapuna, Auckland. She studied professional photography at Unitec in the mid-1990s and completed her BFA at Elam School of Fine Arts in 2001. Her final-year submission at Elam, Asthma & Eczema, won her the inaugural Walters Prize in 2002, catapulting her to national recognition. Awarding the prize, judge Harald Szeemann said Todd’s was ‘the work that irritated me the most’.  In 2004, writer Anthony Byrt described her as ‘the best artist of her generation’. Todd, on the other hand, calls herself a ‘lazy perfectionist’. Her work has been showcased in numerous exhibitions, nationally and internationally, including Mixed-Up Childhood (2005), High Tide (2006), the 2006 Busan Biennale, Unnerved (2010), the 2010 Sydney Biennale and 2014  Edinburgh Festival. It is held in many significant Australasian public museum collections.

Todd is represented by Ivan Anthony Gallery, Auckland; Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington.