French artist Coco Fronsac paints non-European masks onto Western vernacular photographs from the early 20th Century. A dichotomy is developed between the early forms from the continents of Africa, Oceania, America, and Asia, and the standardized nature of photographic portraits as they occurred a century ago. These surreal images plunge us into a dreamlike, comical world, contrasting ritual and tradition, to exploit the unexpected juxtapositions with startling effect. For the artist, the portraits seek to bring a commonality to the human experience by representing the family relationship and different stages of development for a Western person like herself (moving from birth, to communion, military service, marriage, etc.) in context with non-Western rituals she respects. Coco Fronsac plays with the viewers’ vision of time, to better project themselves into a new, fluctuating, living, subjective reality. The vernacular photographs on which Fronsac works themselves go back in time. The paintings she mixes over the photographs typically go back to indigenous cultures she admires. With the combination, she imbues a contemporary approach to both subjects, bringing a new portrayal of humanity’s present position.
Born in 1962 in France, and trained at the School of Applied Arts of Paris, Fronsac comes from a family of artists. She is a former lithographer, influenced and passionate about First Arts and Surrealism. The work of Coco Fronsac is collected and shown in major museums in Europe, including most recently in “Powermask” at the Wereldmuseum in Rotterdam. That exhibition devoted much attention to the ways in which, both in the past and present, the mask has been and still is a source of inspiration for international visual artists, photographers, and fashion designers, such as Pablo Picasso, Louise Bourgeois, James Ensor, Keith Haring, Jean Paul Gaultier, Viktor & Rolf Coco Fronsac, Charles Fréger, and Phyllis Galemb. The exhibition culminated into a hardcover book by the same name.