Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sante D'Orazio at Stellan Holm, Mona Kuhn at Cowles

Well, above we have the clothed "good" girl images, I won't include the "bad," or wait, has that whole binary changed? No? Phew. Katlick School, at Stellan Holm, sets out to explore that most original and daring of territories--the Catholic schoolgirl. Shocking, no? There she is in her little plaid skirt, posing for you under cherry blossoms, looking like a peach you might slide your thumb into...Oh, my! Now she has her finger by her mouth. I guess he's doing something significant here, or at least Gawker thinks so. Whatever.

Sante D'Orazio began his career with Italian Vogue in 1981, and has gone on to photograph for fashion and entertainment industries. Unlike this regurgitated imagery the celebrity photos are a whole other matter. See for yourself.

Mona Kuhn, on the other hand, does something a little new with the nude figure. While at the gallery high school students gaggled about, assessing lighting, figures, flesh, not without a little tittering, but only a little. Kuhn's work creates a mood, and the mood is quite the opposite of Mr. D'Orazio's work. Their is texture here, linen folds contrast with skin--all very lovely skin yes, and in various states of focus. In fact there are photos that range completely out of focus, holding the line of representation.

In "Refractions" (2006) a woman holds a glass of water at her hip, a bit incongruous, not perfect, in fact there is tension in the wrist and thumb, the hip looks slightly uncomfortable, and behind the figure men both robed, and nude, in focus enough to see the direction of their gaze. Much more mysterious and fresh, suggesting a narrative that is not based on an overly-anticipated, overly sexualized school girl.

Even the more pedestrian, "Balthazar" (2004), with the fetishistic J. Crew like male figure gazing out of the frame, we are intrigued by the composition, the wonderful light on the figure of the woman on a yellow sofa, and the second girl, again, another kind of American icon of beauty, but made slight strange by the posture, and the lack of focus.

This is the second show of Kuhn's that I've had the pleasure of seeing at Cowles, and it wasn't until this recent show that I realized what she was doing: tipping the gaze, refracting the figure, decentralizing tired modes of representing the female body. Refreshing, yet familiar, and in fact, quite soothing. Nothing earth shattering here, but certainly nothing as tired as the D'Orazio.

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