Here I sit in the side cafeteria/cafe/school lunch room on the bottom floor of International Center of Photography’s main branch. I am sipping on my really delicious and oh so worth it $1 and 90 cent coffee. Mmmm.
Okay, I have just come to see the Hans Bellmer show, which unfortunately I find a might bit boring. Why all the buckle shoes? And the bows. A little too much German sensibility for my tastes. To be fair this era (1930s and 40s) has been covered so much before, I have lost my interest in picking apart the sexual/political overtones of that time.
There is an photo he took of a human head wearing a bird cage, which immediately brought to mind the famous photo of Anais Nin dressed in the same manner. Maybe she saw the photo and decided to make her costume for that “Come As Your Madness” party she went to. My problem is I read too much Anais in my 20’s and then bookended it all with that Deirdre Bair biography where she kind of let the cat out of the bag. Yeah, how did Anais live so wonderfully and charmingly on her little houseboat? Her husband paid for it! The one she never mentioned. Oh.
At any rate, the other two shows at ICP I enjoyed a lot more. First off, I found it nice that the International Center for Photography let Kiki Smith install not only photos, but her sculptures, videos and drawings as well. Working with 3 intermixed fairy tale themes,she also uses doll imagery,(yes), like Hans Bellmer, but I personally found her take on it a lot more engaging. The first thing you see as you enter the gallery is series of poisonous black apples that are nice and wicked. Smith has always had a certain organic quality circulating throughout her work, and the photos shown here are a natural extension to what she has previously done. The exhibit is titled Telling Tales.
The other show, Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together,1840-1918 gathers daguerreotypes, tin types and other photos from the mid 1800’s. The photos documenting male friendships from the Victorian era are almost alarming in their show of intimacy. The very tender depictions of (now anonymous) friendships are surprising, and in this day and age, very refreshing.
For myself it was a very interesting window into how acceptable behavior in our society has changed,and how social norms have shifted over the course of time. I think people would now be far too self-conscious to shine through a photo with such genuineness.
Of course you have to take into consideration our conception of photography, and why you would be posing for a portrait has undoubtedly changed in the past 150 years. It was lovely though to see such a comfortableness depicted between people,especially considering the Victorian age brings the word “stuffiness” immediately to mind. This small but very interesting gathering of photo documents was a wonderful surprise to find out about.
So, there you go. There was much to take in at ICP Midtown. I like knowing now that they are open late on Friday nights and offer a “pay-as-you wish” program. My coffee cost more than my admission.
Here is a nice review of Kiki Smith’s work in the show, unfortunately the photos have disappeared since I viewed them yesterday.