Under My Skin – Nudes in Contemporary Photography @Flowers

JTF (just the facts): A group show containing a total of 24 photographic works by 23 artists/photographers, variously framed and matted, and hung against white walls in a series of three connected gallery spaces. Nearly all of the works were made in 2007 or later. The show was curated by Mona Kuhn. (Installation shots at right.)

The following artists/photographers were included in the show, with the number of prints on view and image details as background. The works of 3 of the artists/photographers originally planned for the exhibit were not on view:

  • Adou: 2 gelatin silver prints, 13×16, edition of 10, 2011
  • Jeff Bark: 1 digital color print, 33×41, edition of 8, 2007
  • Polly Borland: 1 giclee print on German etch paper with felt, 27×20, edition of 15, 2009
  • Christopher Bucklow: 1 cibachrome print, 40×60, unique, 2012
  • Ana Casas Broda: 1 c-print, 24×36, edition of 5, 2010
  • David Dawson: not on view
  • Maciek Jasik: 1 giclee print, 30×24, edition of 6, 2012
  • Sarah Anne Johnson: 1 pigment print with acrylic inks, 30×20, edition of 3, 2013
  • Nadav Kander: 1 chromogenic print, 36×47, edition of 6, 2010
  • Kim Joon: 1 digital print, 87×44, edition of 5, 2007
  • Bear Kirkpatrick: 1 archival inkjet print, 34×28, edition of 8, 2010
  • Mona Kuhn: 1 chromogenic print, 30×30, edition of 8, 2012
  • Justine Kurland: 1 c-print, 30×40, edition of 6, 2007
  • Christophe Kutner: 1 color pigment print on fiber paper, 24×30, edition of 20, 2009
  • Deana Lawson: 1 pigmented inkjet print, 36×34, no edition information, 2007
  • Malerie Marder: not on view
  • Geir Moseid: not on view
  • Mariah Robertson: 1 print, 11×14, unique, 2009
  • Jenny Saville/Glen Luchford: 1 chromogenic print, 40×31, no edition information, 1995-1996
  • Collier Schorr: 1 collage, 48×43, edition of 2, 2007
  • Alec Soth: 1 archival pigment print, 30×40, edition of 10, 2011
  • Bill Sullivan: 2 c-prints, 28×21, edition of 3, 2010
  • Esther Teichmann: 1 fiber based print hand tinted with inks, 20×24, edition of 3, 2013
  • Spencer Tunick: 1 c-print sealed between plexiglas, 30×38, edition of 6, 2009
  • Shen Wei: 1 chromogenic print, 30×45, edition of 3, 2011

Comments/Context: Summer group shows have never been a favorite of mine (recall a 2009 diatribe on the subject here), so I am always pleasantly surprised to run across one that actually merits some attention. This show eschews the tired “one each from the gallery stable” formula and instead takes stock of a classic genre: the photographic nude. Curated by Mona Kuhn (herself a successful photographer of nudes), the exhibit brings together a broad sampler of contemporary nudes, charting how artists are handling the aesthetic challenges of such a traditional form. It’s a vibrant, uneven bunch of known and unknown names, proving that innovative experimentation is still very much taking place.

At its essence, the classical nude has always been about line and form, about the elegant shapes the unadorned human body (male or female) makes when seen from different angles. Even in its contemporary form, this concept still holds true for many artists. Nadav Kander’s white on black nude makes the ample curves of his model look like polished marble, while Jenny Saville and Glen Luchford use glass to flatten out the female form into a fleshy distortion. Christopher Bucklow directs light through tiny holes to create nude silhouettes, while Mona Kuhn contributes warm palm tree reflections to her standing nude. The bending legs and folded arms of Sarah Anne Johnson’s female nude echo a familiar Weston, aside from the tattoo covered limbs and the hand painted clown nose and ruffled collar which undermine its seriousness; Polly Borland works in a similar manner, starting with a body that is all linear arms and legs and adding on red felt dots over the eyes.

The added effects of Johnson and Borland point to a further investigation of process and materials in the context of nude subject matter. Mariah Robertson uses nudes forms in her expressionistic color photograms, while Kim Joon turns the nude into body art by painting intricate patterns across the flesh of his subjects. Esther Teichmann adds gestural overpainted color, while Bill Sullivan allows the pixelation of a rephotographed TV screen to obscure his nudes. In each case, there is a sense of starting with the standard form but pushing the subject beyond its normal boundaries via non-standard interventions and mediations.

Many of the other works in this show follow a more narrative strain of nude making, where the naked bodies have more context and plausible storyline. This approach ranges from the personal (Shen Wei, Deanna Lawson, Collier Schorr) to the allegorical (Justine Kurland, Jeff Bark, Bear Kirkpatrick), where introspection and intimacy are exchanged for staged scenes and posed groupings. Alec Soth’s nude bends over to pick something up in her scraggly suburban back yard, while kids draw all over their mother with markers in Ana Casas Broda’s playroom nude, and puzzling narrative scenarios like these turn more exaggerated, surreal and performative in the hands of Adou and Spencer Tunick. Across this diversity of work, the common thread is the vulnerability of the primal human form, where a naked body stands out in an unexpected place.

While this show generally leaves out the male nude, the fashion nude, and the more aggressive, risk taking gender studies, I think Kuhn has done a solid job of taking the pulse of the contemporary photographic nude and providing a sampler of some of the vitality in the genre. It’s proof positive that even in categories where we might assume we’ve seen it all before, there is still plenty of white space for original thinking.

Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced as follows:

  • Adou: $2500 each
  • Jeff Bark: $14000
  • Polly Borland: $2800
  • Christopher Bucklow: $18000
  • Ana Casas Broda: $5100
  • David Dawson: not on view
  • Maciek Jasik: $3500
  • Sarah Anne Johnson: $10300
  • Nadav Kander: $12400
  • Kim Joon: $27000
  • Bear Kirkpatrick: $2800
  • Mona Kuhn: $11000
  • Justine Kurland: $8500
  • Christophe Kutner: $1500
  • Deana Lawson: POA
  • Malerie Marder: not on view
  • Geir Moseid: not on view
  • Mariah Robertson: $3500
  • Jenny Saville/Glen Luchford: NFS
  • Collier Schorr: $24000
  • Alec Soth: $12730
  • Bill Sullivan: $3500 each
  • Esther Teichmann: $4500
  • Spencer Tunick: $8400
  • Shen Wei: $3900

In terms of secondary market history, this show contains a wide sweep of artists/photographers, from those with well established track records (Saville/Luchford, Soth, Bucklow, Tunick et al) to those whose work has recently entered the secondary markets or has little or no action history at all. For those collectors interested in following up, gallery retail likely remains the best option for many of these photographers.

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Read more about: Adou, Alec Soth, Bear Kirkpatrick, Bill Sullivan, Christophe Kutner, Christopher Bucklow, Collier Schorr, Deana Lawson, Esther Teichmann, Jeff Bark, Jenny Saville and Glen Luchford, Justine Kurland, Kim Joon, Maciek Jasik, Mariah Robertson, Mona Kuhn, Nadav Kander, Polly Borland, Sarah Anne Johnson, Shen Wei, Spencer Tunick, Flowers Gallery

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Mark Steinmetz, ATL

Mark Steinmetz, ATL

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2024 by Nazraeli Press (here). Cloth hardback with tipped in cover photograph, 10.5 x 12 inches, 80 pages, with 63 duotone photographs. Includes an ... Read on.

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