PHILADELPHIA.- L’Autre, an exhibition of contemporary photographic portraits showing the disassociated personal affect of today’s human condition, runs at the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery at The University of the Arts today through October 14, 2007.
Just as the convention of the photographic smile was invented in the nineteenth century, the countenances in the current exhibition point to an alternative aspect of the post-human: otherworldly, shell-shocked, blank and ethereal. L’Autre presents examples of this neutral look that speaks volumes on our apocalyptic, post 9/11, heroin-chic, Iraq War period.
L’Autre includes the work of photographers Tanyth Berkeley, Rineke Dijkstra, Suzanne Opton, Jessica Roberts, Thomas Ruff and Sarah Stolfa. Each of these artists portrays the human face as a cryptic blank slate where the human gaze is averted or not connected to expressive communication with the camera. This is the direct opposite of the confrontational street photography of four decades past as exemplified by Diane Arbus, Lisette Modell and Lee Friedlander. Their closest predecessors are the Depression era subway prints of Walker Evans.
Berkeley, who is staging a concurrent one-person exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, photographs street people and adolescents in modes of personal transition. Their stare is inward and wan. Dijkstra’s Almerisa is one of a direct yet dispassionate progression of young people growing and morphing into adults. Opton shows works from two series. Still Standing (2001) documents the faces of New Yorkers in lower Manhattan after the World Trade disaster, while Claxton from her Soldier series (2006- 2007) is a masterpiece of military remove and the effects of trauma. In Roberts’ Before the Coming portfolio (2006), the Philadelphia photographer shows young boys whose inner life is inexplicable. Although the title of this series sounds Messianic and about the Rapture, Roberts talks about portraying youths whose sexual innocence is beginning to be tainted in thought if not in deed. The noted photographer Thomas Ruff exhibits Portrait (S. Kewer) from 1989, a large-scale frontal portrait that derives the neutral Germanic tradition of the Bernd and Hilla Becher. Sarah Stolfa’s Philadelphia portraits of denizens of McGlinchey’s Tavern show the direct and numbing effects of alcohol, which prevents communication.
Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery programs are supported by the Exhibitions Program of The University of the Arts. The works of Rineke Dijkstra and Thomas Ruff are courtesy of the Sender Collection. The gallery is free and open to the public. Exhibition runs through October 14. Weekdays, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Wednesday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; and Saturday – Sunday, noon – 5 p.m. Reception: September 17, 5 – 8 p.m. 333 S. Broad St. For additional information, call 215/717-6480 or visit www.uarts.edu/go.