Located on Scott Avenue in Bushwick, the Ramiken Gallery is a few blocks from the nightclubs and bars that come alive when the lights go out. Around midnight, music overflows these spaces and invites the promise of escape and self-determination – offering a chance to put on a new personality and cover the mundane details of everyday life. So it’s fitting that Ramiken is currently hosting the Zoe Chait exhibit. Noise, a moving tribute to the public and private lives of SOPHIE, the innovative producer and musician whose tragic death earlier this year sent shock waves through the music industry.
Chait and SOPHIE initially met when they lived with a group of friends in Los Angeles’ Nichols Canyon, making Chait witness to the artist’s meteoric rise after 2018. Oil from the back of each pearl and the single from the album “It’s Okay to Cry”, which marked the musician’s audience as a trans woman with her accompanying music video. By then, SOPHIE had already grown into one of the most requested and influential producers in pop and electronic music, with a singular blend of industrial aesthetics and bubblegum. A breathtaking career and life was interrupted by an accident in Athens, Greece, in January 2021. Although Chait’s exhibition was originally conceived in the summer of 2020, alongside SOPHIE, Noise now functions as a poignant memorial to an artist who left too early.
Chait’s photographs capture SOPHIE in the artist’s most intimate moments at home, at work and in her leisure time. Many of these photographs are domestic scenes captured at the musician’s home in Nichols Canyon. In the “soft, juul” diptych (2017), SOPHIE is lying on an unmade bed smoking a juul, looking at Chait through the camera – a beautiful photograph that depicts the musician apart from the otherworldly character known to the public . One of Noisethe most striking images of, “naked” (2020), presents SOPHIE in bed, her head tilted back with an overwhelming sense of confidence and comfort.
Despite the physical intimacy of many of these photographs, the most revealing images are those where Chait surprises SOPHIE in the intervening moments, behind the scenes at concerts and photo shoots that have helped shape the musician’s public image. In “Lubricate” (2018), a team rallies around SOPHIE, putting the finishing touches on a striking black latex costume as the artist gazes into the distance, determined but peaceful. Chait further explores the construction of SOPHIE’s pristine world in the video piece reflected projection (2017-2020), which includes footage of the musician while filming a campaign for Louis Vuitton, as well as rare moments where Chait filmed herself during their time together. SOPHIE’s direct gaze and glamorous face are reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s Screen tests (1963-1966) for how they simultaneously enhance and degrade the model’s on-screen character.
Now an elegy of an icon, Noise is a carefully thought-out tribute to SOPHIE as a revolutionary person and artist. Chait uses his images to illustrate a monumental figure, carefully revealing a more intimate side of the larger-than-life figure that has dazzled stages around the world. In these photographs, SOPHIE feels alive and among us – perhaps the most fitting tribute to an artist whose influence and presence continues to linger.
Zoe Chait: The noise continues through July 24 at Ramiken (154 Scott Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn).