SHOWstudio Shop hosted a solo exhibition of portraits of William S. Burroughs by Kate Simon to celebrate the occasion of his centenary. The exhibition marked the debut release of Simon’s 'Cibachrome Edition' portfolio, which is comprised of 11 iconic shots of the literary master printed in the now extinct cibachrome medium. These rare photographs were displayed alongside a selection of black and white limited edition prints. Taken over a 20 year period, Simon has amassed a critical body of work that is widely unseen and captures the many faces of one of the most important American writers of the twentieth century.
Merging the formality of high literature with the allure of the low brow detective novel, Burroughs unapologetically addressed controversial subjects of narcotic abuse, erotic sexuality, criminality and excess in his work. The legendary persona of the author has also garnered unbridled fascination. Purposefully weaving elements of autobiography into his fiction, Burroughs obscured readings of his own character and rendered himself inextricable from his writing. He also appears in the literature of his contemporaries in a number of contradictory guises, most notably as Jack Kerouac’s Will Dennison and Old Bull Lee. At one moment, he is a grey, anonymous spook with the capability to cast a manipulative spell over his peers, and the next he is warm, mannerly, adored, even kind.
While Simon’s portraits capture the familiar image of Burroughs with his glasses perched on his hollow cheeks, his suit, his trilby hat and often a gun in tow, they also reveal the many facets of the man. But to try and identify the secret of Burroughs’ persona would be as futile as seeking out a fixed narrative within his literature. Here, Simon’s candid portraiture embraces these various copies, simulations and projections of the writer in a show that reflects Burroughs’ own presentation of himself.
Image copyright Kate Simon.