Philip-Lorca diCorciaâ€™s â€œLucky 13â€ is a collection of thirteen full-body portraits. His subjects are pole dancers at work. Some people will be dismayed by his choice to shoot these women. Others will be disappointed by his impartial eye, which doesnâ€™t glamorize or vilify them. As for me, I was floored.
Itâ€™s become trendy to talk about the â€œmainstreamingâ€ of the sex industry. However, most images of sex work tend to be informed by one of two ideologies. According to the first, sex work is de facto awful and everyone who does it is a victim, or pure evil. According to the second, sex work is endless fun, and everyone who claims to have been hurt or exploited by the industry is a liar, and pure evil. â€œLucky 13â€ belongs to neither camp. The women in diCorciaâ€™s portraits donâ€™t look tragic, nor do they look like theyâ€™re having the time of their lives. They look like women at work. Read more »
The Guggenheim's "Russia!" exhibit is a sprawling, ambitious collection of Russian art, gathered from seven centuries of history. The curators have arranged the art chronologically, which gives the collection great momentum, coherence, and intensity. There's a unique perspective to be gained by watching a nation's history unfold through its art. If art history is the record of ideas, approaches, and subjects that have been considered beautiful or interesting, then this chronologically arranged procession of images represents the flow of consciousness and self-consciousness in the mind of the nation. It's like taking a walk through Russia's brain. The Guggenheim's spiral-shell design is perfect for this exhibit; the visitor circles through the centuries, finally emerging into the present. Read more »
The first thing to know about Uncle Vinny is that he has a lot of face â€“ big, heaping gobs of it. Heâ€™s not a pretty man, but in a tradition of portraiture that values psychological insight over surface appeal, heâ€™s the perfect model. His features seem to testify to a lifetime of use and abuse. The rich, crinkling folds of flesh under his chin, his bloodshot eyes, his stubble â€“ these things challenge you to look, and keep looking, in the hopes that you can divine the personality that drove
him through so much life.
In her exhibit My Uncle Vinny, Justine Reyes has chosen to photograph her relative along with the objects that he has collected over the course of his life. Her style owes a lot to Richard Avedon â€“ her subjects are presented head-on, against an austere white background â€“ and something to Catholic pop art, in which the objects that surround a saintâ€™s image are supposed to testify to his life and virtues. Read more »
Even before multiculturalism first stormed the ivory towers of academia in the mid-1980s, the tendency towards â€œrevisingâ€ or rethinking American history and culture to include the accomplishments of both women and racial minorities had been in evidence. Hence, it may seem surprising -- or even astonishing -- that our most recent era of Political Correctness failed to produce any comprehensive, scholarly study of African-American womenâ€™s artwork. Indeed, such a study has only emerged this year as a result of art historian Lisa E. Farringtonâ€™s tireless commitment to produce this extensive look at black womenâ€™s artistic contributions from slavery to the present.
In many ways, Creating Their Own Image: The History of African-American Women Artists attempts to answer one basic question: In a society in which the vast majority of black women are objectified, hyper-sexualized, and marginalized (socially, politically, and economically), what does black womenâ€™s art actually look like? Read more »