August 11, 2008

Pin Ups Revealed

I am a big fan of art photography which is as strong in concept as it is in execution. And I feel like I haven't been stumbling upon it that often in galleries lately. Mostly I've either seen technically well-executed photographs without a complex concept, or, I've seen complex concepts without a commitment to photographic execution. So I constantly yearn for the best of both worlds, where concept meets execution at a peak, elevating photography - and any aspect of it - to the higher art form that it can be.
Luckily, I recently saw an exhibit which was terribly satisfying. Currently at Regen Projects, you can catch Gillian Wearing's Pin Ups. And if there is anything worth catching, it's that exhibit. Gillian questions our need for transformation and artifice by offering exactly that to amateur models who want it very badly. She then shares the results with us; it's like a scientific experiment to expose a hunger in our modern psyche to be made over, airbrushed, and presented to the world as the sexiest beast alive. And it's not just the ladies who want to be objectified, "Pin Ups" is an equal opportunity exploiter, granting sexpot transformation to both men and women, making their Pin Up dreams come true.

Wearing presents her Pin Ups as gorgeous, colorful photo-realistic airbrushed paintings, based on photo shoots of the models in sexy attire and attitudes. But Wearing also anchors the eye candy with a strong narrative component. Behind each painted panel lie snapshots and written essays from each model, offering the viewer a healthy dose of reality behind the fantasy, quite literally. The subjects, often self-diagnosing their self-esteem issues in handwritten pleas to be photographed, are given life by their own words. And while their words express a desire to be presented in sexy perfection to the public at large, the casual snapshots reveal how far from that each model is in daily life. The viewer might feel a bevy of feelings - such as temptation, compassion, scorn, pity, admiration, intrigue - all at the same time. By showing us both the vulnerability and the magnificence of each model, Wearing continues her explorations of identity while sharing with us the manufacturing process of image, the way a magician might reveal a slight of hand. And at the end of the day, the The Pin Ups have been humanized. You might feel a little educated, a little human, maybe even a little dirty afterwards, but like most successful art viewings, it will linger long after you leave the gallery.

:: bogna ::