Thursday, May 10, 2012

Naked Before the Camera

"Hermaphrodite" (Nadar) from the Met's Naked Before the Camera
“Controversies are often aroused even more intensely when the artist’s chosen medium is photography, with its accuracy and specificity—where a real person stood naked before the camera—rather than traditional media in which more generalized and idealized forms prevail.” This is part of the introduction to Naked Before the Camera, at the Met. To the right of the commentary is a Brassai from l931 of a nude model on a pedestal who is the subject of “L’Academie Julien.” The word “Naked” is spelled out in light bulbs like a peep show and this is one show you want to see for the multivalent nudity. There is a postmortem of a murder victim by the chief of criminal identification of Paris and the naked body of patient suffering from disfiguring sarcomas. Two Eakins photographs of nude males are offered up along with another Brassai, “Introduction to Suzy’s,” showing the nude prostitutes in a famous Paris brothel. There’s a Diane Arbus from l968, of a naked man with his penis hidden between his legs, “A Naked Man Being a Woman,” which is the perfect complement another photo in the exhibit called “Hermaphrodite” depicting a man/woman with a heterodox genitalia. Larry Clark, the director of Kids, is represented by a shot of a teenaged coupled making love which was used as the cover of his book Teenaged Lust. Jim Jager photographed black nude males in self-published magazines with names like Black Thunder, Black Fever, Black Knight and Black Gold and his well-endowed male, “Sharkey” from l980 according to the curator “set the stage for Mapplethorpe and others to push boundaries and rules, gender and sexuality.” Hannah Wilke’s “Snatch Shot With Ray Gun, from the series So Help Me Hannah offer the naked self portrait as a form of performance art.  In Regarding the Pain of Others (2002) Susan Sontag repudiated her earlier On Photography (1977) in which argued that repeated exposure to images dulled consciousness. Naked Before the Camera continues a discussion which began with the museum’s 2006 love letter to Sontag, On Photography: A Tribute to Susan Sontag. Think back to Stieglitz’s unapologetically sensuous nude photographs of Georgia O’Keefe, which had been shown at the museum, in the Stieglitz and his Artists Show last year. They’re the perfect complement to this exhibit.

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