Jessica Chastain

October 1 – December 10th, 2016
University Art Gallery, UC Irvine
Curated by Juli Carson


The latest in the UAG’s Emerging Artist Series presents three filmic works by Maura Brewer, produced between 2014 and 2016. Each work takes as its site a recent film by the actress Jessica Chastain, starting with Zero Dark Thirty in 2012, followed by Interstellar in 2014 and the ending with the 2015 film The Martian. In all three films, Chastain plays a similar character: a high-achieving career woman who is dedicated to the pursuit of a non-romantic male counterpart, from Osama Bin Laden to Mark Watney (Matt Damon). In each case, Chastain’s role speaks the language of popular feminism; her talent and work ethic has propelled her into a successful career in a largely male realm. She makes choices that drive forward the action of the plot. But Chastain’s agency within the film is at once undermined by the institutions and structures within which she purports to operate, be it the state – the CIA or NASA – or her own father. As such, Jessica Chastain is always acting but never under her own power. As in all Brewer’s work, this installation presents Hollywood film as a site for analysis and deconstruction. Accordingly, Chastain’s characters are presented within metaphorical landscapes that speak to the contradictory nature of her cinematic position: alternately a drone or a satellite, Chastain is always “triangulated” by an alien agent. Such that, if she is the product of a feminist rhetoric – one that prizes agency within a field of constraint – her demand for action is simultaneously mitigated by the reality of inaction. In this way, one could say that “Jessica Chastain” – a placeholder for the feminine subject in this moment in time – is depressed.