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What Can a Face Do?

Petzel is pleased to present What Can a Face Do?, an online exhibition of works exploring portraiture and its many forms and interpretations. In the current pandemic state, our noses and mouths are covered with masks, which prohibits us from seeing each other face to face. As a result, the portrait becomes especially urgent as a model of representation: the face expresses and reveals the inner feelings of a person; it shows something that is hidden behind the facade, yet there is something in the appearance of a face that allows access to what is hidden beneath. This exhibition brings together a selection of works concentrated around the idea of faces, presenting a visual “group portrait” that highlights the relevancy of portraiture today.

What Can a Face Do? includes work by Yael Bartana, Keith Edmier, Asger Jorn, Sean Landers, Rezi van Lankveld, Maria Lassnig, Jorge Pardo, Joyce Pensato, Jon Pylypchuk, and Nicola Tyson.


Three roles of the face are recognizable: it is individualizing (it characterizes each person); it is socializing (it manifests a social role); it is relational or communicating (it ensures not only communication between two people, but also, in a single person, the internal agreement between their character and their role).

—Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, 1986


Mask on, fuck it, mask off.

—Future, Mask Off, 2017


Yael Bartana, Undertaker 5

Yael Bartana

Undertaker 5


Archival pigment print

70.9 x 47.2 inches

180 x 120 cm

Head is all heart has. Help, head. Help heart.

—Lydia Davis, Head, Heart, 2007


Yael Bartana, Bury Our Weapons, Not Our Bodies

Yael Bartana

Bury Our Weapons, Not Our Bodies

Mask 2


Silkscreen on aluminum

24.9 x 20.2 x 1.2 inches

63.3 x 51.2 x 3 cm