Anna Betbeze: Forms Like Dreams

April 15th - May 29th, 2021
  • Forms Like Dreams, installation view

Nina Johnson is proud to present Forms Like Dreams, an exhibition of new works by Anna Betbeze, opening on April 15th and on view through May 29th, 2021.

  • Forms Like Dreams, installation view

Through photographs and works on paper, paintings, drawings, and sculpture, Anna Betbeze probes the limits of images and experience.

  • Untitled (Forms Like Dreams) 1-6, gouache, dyes, pigments, foil on paper, 21.5 x 17.5 in. (each)

Forms Like Dreams is Betbeze’s third solo exhibition with the gallery and her first exploring photography.


  • Stage, 2021, framed archival print, 24 x 36 in. Ed. 2
  • Forms Like Dreams, installation view

For years, I have been tracking a series of seemingly disparate ideas: touch, the haptic sense, holes and shadows, color, destructive plasticity, deformation and the animate.

  • Untitled (Ripe), 2021, wool acid dyes, ash from burning, 139 x 120 in.
  • Forms Like Dreams, installation view

This obsessional research has taken me to many places, from a visit with polymath touch god Jan Svankmajer in the Czech Republic to the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre near my house in Los Angeles.

  • Portal, 2021, gouache, dyes, and gesso on paper, 41 x 27.5 in.

Spending weekends at the puppet theatre, I would watch as crude materials transform before my eyes, it was emotional and embodied. It was magic.

  • Mantis, 2021, framed archival print, 30.5 x 20.5 in. Ed. 2
  • Forms Like Dreams, installation view

These experiences have led me to consider the supposed deathlessness of artistic creation alongside the ephemerality of lived experience. And (now) with COVID-19 a pervasive reality, I’ve been thinking about the new limitations on touch and how tactility enters photographic images.


  • Slipping (in 3 parts), 2021, gouache, dyes, and gesso on paper, 41 x 27.5 in. (each)
  • Forms Like Dreams, installation view

I started to make “puppets” and stage them as photographs in a makeshift theatre in my studio. The first was a pair of shoes I made by binding my feet with silk and duct tape and cutting away the cast. Others included a lump of clay, a shapeshifting pile of tin foil, and an unstuffed rabbit.

  • Bunny #2, 2021, framed archival print, 30.5 x 20.5 in. Ed. 2

The puppets themselves are touched and tactile. The pictures are a cage. Through drawing and painting they are animated into forms that slip in and out of being something, to being nothing, deforming and reforming endlessly.

– Anna Betbeze

  • Stage (Collapsed), 2021, framed archival print, 30.5 x 20.5 in. Ed. 2
Anna Betbeze

Anna Betbeze (b 1980, Mobile, Alabama) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Betbeze has had solo exhibitions at MassMOCA, Utah MOCA, The Atlanta Contemporary, The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Nina Johnson, Miami, Markus Lüttgen, Cologne, Lüttgenmeijer, Berlin, Luxembourg & Dayan London, Kate Werble Gallery, New York, and Francois Ghebaly, Los Angeles.  Her work is currently on view in Carnivalesca at the Kunstverein in Hamburg, Germany curated by Bettina Steinbrügge.

Betbeze’s work has been shown at institutions such as MOMA PS1, Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, The Hessel Museum at Bard College, and The Power Station, Shanghai and has been reviewed in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Artforum, Modern Painters, New York Magazine, Frieze, and The Los Angeles Times. She is a recent recipient of the Rome Prize and the 2020 recipient of the Headlands Art Center Chiaro Award.