Elinor Carucci: Mother @Edwynn Houk

JTF (just the facts): A total of 27 color photographs, framed in white and matted, and hung against beige walls in the entry area, the main gallery space, and a smaller back room. All of the works are archival pigment prints, made between 2004 and 2012. The prints are shown in two sizes: 16×20 and 30×40 (or reverse), both in editions of 8. A monograph of this body of work was published by Prestel in 2013 (here) and is available from the gallery for $50. (Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: Starting with her pregnancy more than a decade ago and continuing on through the birth of her twins and the subsequent early years of their lives, Elinor Carucci has made a body of work that has pulled back the curtain on the joys and frustrations of motherhood. I reviewed an earlier incarnation of this project that was shown at Sasha Wolf Gallery in 2011 (here), and found it full of raw personal emotion, alternating between the harsh and the tender with the intensity of a high strung, overtired caregiver. At that time, the photographs felt very centered on Carucci herself, a constant and often indirect reflection of how she was feeling and how the actions of her growing children were seen through her eyes.

This show represents both a continuation and recapitulation of Carucci’s project, reprising some of the images from earlier in the series and adding in more recent pictures made in the past few years. The newer works find the twins with more developed individual personalities and expressing a wider range of emotions. Eden and Emmanuelle alternately squirm and fuss, fight in the street, cuddle with their parents, and look anxiously before crossing the street. Carucci drags them along, rushes to get them to school on time, and comforts them in moments of repose. Her mothering duties have changed as the kids have gotten older, and her pictures reflect the subtle tension they are all experiencing as the twins waver between staying close and breaking away from mom’s supportive presence.

For working photographers, this show and the one that preceded it a few years ago offer a fascinating paired example of the power of editing. In many ways, the previous show of this work was a selection of the toughest and most controversial pictures in the project, from the exhausted portrait in the nursing bra to the wide swath of scar across Carucci’s belly; it made the realities of early motherhood very visceral and real, with a hyper sensitivity to the jangled nerves and emotions of the mother. This newer edit has stripped out all of those hard pictures, replacing them with a generally softer selection of parent/child interactions. It’s almost as if the heightened state of those early years has faded a bit, receding into memory as new parenting challenges have continued to present themselves. Dramatic wailing tantrums have given way to the nuanced grimaces of brushing tangled hair, and everyone is adapting.

As this body of work continues to shift and evolve, different stages of motherhood (and their associated moods and emotions) are appearing, and given how much the early photographs revolved around Carucci herself, it will be interesting to see how the pictures change as the kids begin to assert their independence and push her further and further out of the frame. It’s a timeless cycle faced by all mothers, and Carucci’s consistently engaging long term portrait is capturing the intimate subtleties of each successive step.

Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced as follows. The 16×20 prints are $3500 each, while the 30×40 prints are $5500 each. Carucci’s work has little secondary market history, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

Read more about: Elinor Carucci, Edwynn Houk Gallery, Prestel Publishing

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