Located on Bushwick’s Scott Avenue, the gallery Ramiken is a mere few blocks away from dance clubs and bars that come alive when the lights go down. Around midnight, music spills from these spaces and beckons with the promise of escapism and self-determination — offering a chance to don a new persona and drown out the mundane details of everyday life. It is fitting, then, that Ramiken is currently home to Zoe Chait’s exhibition Noise, an emotive tribute to the public and private lives of SOPHIE, the innovative producer and musician whose tragic death earlier this year sent shockwaves through the music industry.
Chait and SOPHIE met initially when they lived with a group of friends in Los Angeles’s Nichols Canyon, making Chait witness to the artist’s meteoric rise to fame following 2018’s Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides and the album’s single “It’s Okay to Cry,” which marked the musician’s public coming out as a trans woman with its accompanying music video. By then, SOPHIE had already become one of the most in-demand and influential producers in pop and electronic music, with a singular mix of industrial and bubblegum aesthetics. A stunning career and life was cut short by an accident in Athens, Greece, in January 2021. Although Chait’s exhibition was initially conceived in Summer 2020, alongside SOPHIE, Noise now functions as a poignant memorial to an artist gone too soon.
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Chait’s photographs capture SOPHIE in the artist’s most intimate moments at home, work, and play. Many of these photographs are domestic scenes captured at the musician’s Nichols Canyon home. In the diptych “soft, juul” (2017), SOPHIE lays on an unmade bed smoking a juul, looking back at Chait on the other side of the camera — a lovely photograph that depicts the musician outside of the otherworldly persona known to the public. One of Noise’s most striking images, “nude” (2020), features SOPHIE in bed, head tilted back with an overwhelming sense of confidence and comfort.
Despite the physical intimacy in many of these photographs, the most revealing images are the ones where Chait catches SOPHIE in the in-between moments, behind the scenes at concerts and photoshoots that helped craft the musician’s public image. In “lubricate” (2018), a team huddles around SOPHIE, placing the final touches on a striking black latex costume as the artist gazes into the distance, determined but peaceful. Chait further explores SOPHIE’s immaculate world-building in the video piece projection reflected (2017–2020), which comprises footage of the musician during the filming of a campaign for Louis Vuitton, as well as rare moments when Chait filmed herself during their period of collaboration. SOPHIE’s direct gaze and glamorous countenance recalls Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests (1963–1966) for the way they simultaneously heighten and break down the sitter’s on-screen persona.
Now an elegy of an icon, Noise is a carefully considered tribute to SOPHIE as both a person and a groundbreaking artist. Chait uses her images to illustrate a monumental figure, carefully revealing a more intimate side to the larger-than-life figure who dazzled stages the world over. 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: Noise continues through July 24 at Ramiken (154 Scott Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn).