Michel ComteCourtney, New York (2008)

As best I can tell Comte has presented this image as it appears above–you can apparently buy it as an archival inkjet print here–as with ever so slight variations (pay attention to her eyes and the position of her left leg) as the way it was originally made, i.e. in color and part of a fashion shoot.

I am primarily interested in the presence absence of color but insofar as either image works it’s because of the way Herron’s pose mimics the water mark on the set wall behind her.

The B&W version of this has been in my queue for months. I have mixed feelings about it. As I’ve already mentioned the pose is exquisite. There aren’t any real highlights to speak of–if we’re using the Zone System, then I’d say we’re dealing with zones 0 through V only. This results in less than ideal skin tone but it works within the context of the image–drawing attention to the resonance between the pose and the water mark as well as giving it a vintage feel.

I can’t look at it without positing that whoever made it has a massive hard on for Weston’s nudes.

But it doesn’t quite work for me. There’s something off about it.

So in a way the color iteration makes more sense as a total package. The form pose as echo of water spot is de-emphasized. The color is meticulously controlled–what appeared to be a limiting in the B&W version now makes sense–the apricot top sheet and the beige grey of the wall and mattress offer just enough of a dash of color to keep the scene from going flat, cause’s the pink of her sock and the red in her skin to dynamically pop in the frame.

The acute angle of the corner where the two set walls meet is not vertical in either frame–however, it stands out more prominently in the color version. (Probably because the B&W version includes the entirety of her left foot–thus distracting from the odd angle, whereas the color one chops off her toes.)

This is really one of the prime reason I hate digital. An image that is intended to be in B&W needs to be approached with a completely different mindset and tools than a scene that is intended to be presented in color.

Now I don’t know that Comte used a digital camera. It’s entirely possible that he had two cameras set up side by side and triggered the shutter at almost the same time–one with B&W stock the other with Color. But I’m of a mind that this was one digital camera and the files were manipulated post process.

Mathilda EberhardUntitled (2013)

Eberhard has two Flickr accounts: one attributed to Anna Mathilda Eberhard started in 2009 and second attributed to Mathilda Eberhard started in 2010.

The first account is a scattershot of self-portraits (some barely legible, others jaw-droppingly acute in their deeply felt intensity and pathos) and just the right amount of savoir faire so as to court transgression without seeming posturing or pretentious.

With this first foray into the world of sharing photos on social media, it’s hard to pinpoint any pervasive influence. Although I don’t suspect for a second that someone could produce such compelling images without some sort of broad familiarity with photo history.

One thing to note is that specific, salient facets of what would become Laura Makabresku’s hackneyed style are prefigured as if in template form by Eberhard’s early work.

There’s something more melancholic about the second account. Moments of sheer joy, intermingled with a sense of crushing, isolation, loneliness. A number of her pictures invoke in me nothing so much as the feeling of being sexual aroused but lacking the motivation to address that sensation by seeking out affection from another or to opt for the route of self-pleasure.

The work grows more searching, incisive. This, for example, is an image indelibly imprinted on my visual memory.

But then the work slowed and stopped. With the exception of a collaborative project called Wild Flower–intending to show “photos of naked bodies in everyday environments to show that all people have a body and no one else has the right to take it away [sexualize/objectify] from the individual.”

The most recent Wild Flower post dates from December of last year.

As much as a adore the work of established artists like Mark Steinmetz, Igor Mukhin, Allison Barnes, Prue Stent or Erica Shires, what really excites me is work like Eberhard’s or k.flight’s.

Every time I revisit such work, I’m taken in by a new detail, a wonderfully atypical way of seeing and representing the world.

Truthfully, I think Eberhard is actually probably third on my list of folks I most want to collaborate with. Despite it’s unevenness, there are very few image makers out there whose work has wormed its way so deep into my brain.

It’s probably a lost cause but does anyone out there reading this know Mathilda? Is she still making work? Could you perhaps put me in touch with her?

9mouth789 from Menstrual series (2014)

I can’t look at the sprawling mass of mostly messy work on 9mouth’s website without comparing him to Ren Hang–particularly his Instax mini images. The comparison does the former no favors…

Yes: occasionally 9mouth’s work achieves an almost transcendent tenderness. Take the above–the lighting, pose and gesture all balance perfectly to offset what appears to be barrel distortion warping the baseboard. There’s an introspective cast to her expression. It’s really quite lovely.

There are a few other pictures where the image serves to still questions about concept and execution. This one, for example.

Unfortunately, these images are the exceptions that prove an entirely entitled, arrogant and conceptually specious framework. Take his on-going Menstrual series. He says essentially–I’m paraphrasing because the English translation is astonishingly bad: he chose a different woman every month and photographs her life. It’s not intended to be private because like you know he widely shares the pics on the interwebs. By working with them he finds himself falling in love with them but at the end of the month, it’sover. A cycle of melodramatic, manufactured loss he equates with the monthly shedding of the uterine lining.

It’s the sort of thesis that even a shoddy art teacher would render more hole ridden than a slice of Swiss cheese in less than a minute. But, it’s infuriating to me that on top of this he so frequently imposes himself on the frame in an objectifying fashion or worse, touches the models in a way that is unambiguously sexual.

And I don’t mean to suggest that there is something that is inherently off limits as far as process goes. If being an image maker is the only way you can get laid, then at least own that shit upfront. Don’t be all using flimsy conceptual justifications for the shart you use as an occasion to perhaps drop those panties. (That shit is straight up a soft form of predation, btw. And spare me the exploratory creativity justification counter argument…check out mafucker’s Lofter with the outtakes from Menstrual where he takes selfies with each women he shoots.)

What disgusts me with 9mouth is that his work has a fuck load of raw potential that quite frankly seems wasted in 90% of the work he exhibits.

That other 10%, tho… makes you like to say gotdamn!

Butow MalerLena and Extreme (2013)

This appears to be from Maler’s eMagination 05: Porn Art. (A full, lo-res preview is available on Blurb.)

Here: my gaze enters the frame following the baseboards rightward thrust; the reversed symmetry of her left food to his right foot draws my eye away from the deep shadows dominating the left third of the frame; reverse symmetry is emphasized again by the echoed angles of their opposing, correspondent legs.

Upward trajectory is reinforced by the momentum of his taut musculature–sumptuously rendered in B&W–leaning into her body her body at an angle almost perfectly perpendicular to the baseboard approach vector.

In the gap between their bodies, her right breast is framed and balanced against the dizzyingly sharp focus on her left hand transferring her unsupported weight onto his arm, which in turn pulls her center of gravity towards him; the way his arm hiding her face (LOVE); the nearly seamless skin tone merging between the inside of her left knee and his triceps. 

Lastly, I notice the wall’s texture. (Look closely, the faintest hint of it recurs in the left third of the frame, differentiating between the strobes vignetting and shadow cast by his body.

For all it’s sophistication, the couple’s pose is unwieldy. Yes, it convey some of the immediacy, the laser-like focus on sensation that can mark the initiation of intimacy. All well and good but this doesn’t square with Maler’s subtitle: Porn Art.

Word order is always telling: art appended to porn. On one level, the implicit claim works: the images demonstrate a solid grasp of craft and familiarity with art conventions. On another level: thought the presentation is consummately ‘artistic’–I find it neither especially arousing nor justified in its pretense to Art.

In effect, it has matters turned the wrong way ’round: it’s one thing to make sexuality the crux of one’s creative output; quite another, to create work from a template of what is considered meritorious–it is possible to make Art that is pornographic (Klimt’ll tell you all about it); Porn Art is not nor will it ever be a ‘real’ thing.

danish-principle:

foxphotoart

Fox Photo-ArtGlass Olive [from the Voyeurism Series] (2013)

Initially, I see the stone wall and sapling filtered, dappled light. All of it pulls up a step or two short of full blown flashback to strolling around Fort Tryon Park on a summer afternoon.

This feeling motivated me to look into Fox Photo-Art.

Le sigh. What is it with image makers bearing vulpine monikers and their privileged insistence upon producing self-important, creatively stunted dreck and deeming it ‘art’?

Usually, this attitude causes me to dismiss the work in totality; however, it somehow increases my appreciation of the above image even if there’s nothing especially inspired about it.

Yeah, the composition is solid: the angle of the ledge leads the eye to Glass Olive; her body is situated parallel to the focal plane so her legs can remain open toward the camera.

Unlike the more natural, obviously comfortable positioning of her legs, her upper body is rigidly posed in order to facilitate reflection of light from the bright white pages of Margot Mifflin’s Bodies of Subversion onto her face.

To my eye there’s a startlingly nuanced yet fraught conceptualization at work here: using Ms. Olive’s face to establish a counterpoint to the focus on her pubic area.

Glossing over the implications with regard to matters of heteronormative gaze and sexualization/objectification of female bodies, this strategy somewhat succeeds. Although, it should be pointed out this counterpoint unbalances the image; and only works due to the dimensionality contributed by the angle of Ms. Olive’s legs balanced against the essentially decorative negative space occupying the left third of the frame.

I am almost always appreciative of clever framing. But what fascinates me here is the degree to which the subject remains completely indifferent to being seen in spite of all the visual cues pointing to the precision with which the scene has been staged. The most obvious being that no matter how much you fidget, wiggle or kick, even given the audacity of sitting in such a way in a dress sans undergarments, dresses only fall like this as a result of being carefully arranged.

It’s like the Fox Photo-Art can’t decide whether he’s dealing in conventions of public nudity or upskirt shots.

Speaking of the latter: recently, I’ve seen some commendable efforts (like this) to recast an otherwise exploitative genre in a more consent-driven, body positive/sex positive manner.

Juan TroncosoPremonición 2009 (Made with a Nikon D300)

There are strong similarities between Troncoso’s work and art historical precedents. For example: Iluso smacks of Margritte, Real’s bad acid trip made flesh, borrows from a similar work– which escapes me at the moment but also used fragmented images attached to models’ bodies for unnerving effect–both owing a thing or fifty to Max Ernst.

But I can’t help thinking the references are little more than premeditated sleight of hand. The first clue is the image quality. There simply are not that many people around who can coax decent greyscales from digital equipment. Second, though his Flickr account is noteworthy, his personal website–despite its awkward and unwieldy layout– is incisively curated.

My Spanish is quite rusty but I ran Troncoso’s artist statement from the body of work in which this image features through a translation engine. What resulted was borderline nonsense. I tried to clean it up a bit–bear in mind my Spanish grammar is severely limited by my utter impoverishment when it comes to English grammar:

These images were performed over the course of five years and are chronologically arranged to portray a questioning evolution. A journey of visual interventions that came together in interpretations and symbols. Each photograph is a projection of my imagination, inspired by feelings involving me with this world. [A world where] reality and time intertwine with the infinite. The images seek to portray this connection.

Correlations with Margritte and Ernst shift to the background and I am left thinking of Yves Klein–specifically Saut dans le vide. Whether or not this is an astute response, there is something of Klein’s brash dynamism in Troncoso’s work.

Honestly, it matters less to me how they work than that they do–quite well, in fact.

kalkibodhi:

The wall

KalkiBodhi Archives

Hitting the floor face-first woke me.

The overhead light was on already.

Thick fingers knotted in my hair; pulled till my toes pirouetted and twirled.

Alternating between being dragging and scrabbling for footing, my father hauled down two flights of stairs and planted in the unfinished basement.

The poured concrete floor was frigid.

I felt something splash onto my foot. Looking down, I saw blood clotting into my pajama top and crimson dots scattered around my bare feet.

I raised a hand to my face.

“Ten-hut!”

My hand flew to my side.

I could see Kyle crying out of the corner of my eye—a spectacular tactical blunder but Dad ignored it.

Not an especially auspicious omen.

After nine years, these sessions had grown predictable: all fuss-and-bluster at first until my father found cadence, began to enjoy the sound of his own voice and the tone would shift adversarial to professorial.

These professorial lulls never lasted. But at least while they did, I could turn off my mind and preserve energy for the worst to come.

The 2 AM lecture this morning was on the subject of Integrity (capital-I) as exemplified by Bolt’s A Man for All Season.

I had not absorbed a word of it but after an hour, the electrical buzzing of a silence that stretched several seconds too long snapped me back into full focus.

 “The body follows the head,” my father said.

And with a sinking feel, I knew what followed.

He grabbed my throat, his fingers tightening.

I knew to breathe in shallow and slow.  Not to panic. But his grip was too tight.

When you are being can’t breathe is nearly impossible to keep your arms ramrod straight at your sides. I was terrified but I was also certain I would rather suffocate than show that fucker I was afraid of him.

Not to mention, the level of disrespect fearing the man who claimed to love me would entail. Things were bad now but if that happened they would be so much worse.

And just then in that perfect moment a shiver shook my shoulders.

I was on tiptoes again, pulled towards him; held by my neck, my windpipe collapsed. Out of the corner of my eye, I could just see the snarling grey-whites of his eyes shining in his wax-fruit, steel wool stubbled skin.

I stared straight ahead, refusing to meet his eyes, to beg him not to kill me. Black spots swirled and yawned over the porous blue-grey cinderblocks in the middle distance.

“Control the head, control the body.” He said, his voice perfectly calm as he nodded my head for me.

Warm wetness bloomed in my sinuses again. I tried to snuffle it back. Couldn’t breathe. My head like it was going to explode.

A drop. Another. More splattering admist the nests of black hair on his arm.

He felt it and shoved me backwards and I fell sideways, landing on my hands and knees, gasping.

He pulled at the tail of my blue shirt, stretching the material so that he didn’t have to kneel and rid himself of my residue.

I suppose it makes sense that I am completely whack-a-doo about being touched.

And it’s not even being touched so much because I am fine with it as long as I am not thinking about it. If I am thinking about it and you aren’t one of maybe five people, I am likely to launch you into orbit.

There aren’t any easy rules to it I can articulate even to myself, let alone anyone else. Still, this image turns me on in some ineffable way.

But it also makes me sad. There is only one person I would allow to hold me like the young woman above. And although I trust her completely, that wouldn’t be why I would be okay with it. I’d be okay with it because she wouldn’t do it unless there was some truth in the action. I don’t know another way to put it except to say that with out me knowing it was what I craved, this woman knows me enough to grab me by the neck, force me up against a wall and whisper with her lips against my ears how very, very pretty she finds me before enumerating all the unspeakable things she intends to inflict upon my body. Calling me a filthy slut because she knows what I want even when I don’t.