Photo by Matthew Leifheit for CCNY
Born 1986 Tel Aviv, Israel
Nir Arieli’s photographs are beautiful. Picturing male dancers in glowing natural light Arieli steals the physical beauty of his subjects, elegantly transferring it into still images. A frenetic unrest scratches at the surface throughout his series, presenting signs of a struggle beneath the placid picture plane. Tension exists between perfection and imperfection. Tension exists in the very muscles of his sitters. Tension even extends to the viewer in the act of looking at men in this way. Movement is suggested or even depicted explicitly, but the final images are very still. Arieli’s photos preserve moments of balance and grace, leading to the polished contrapposto that gives his pictures gravity.
Arieli only photographs men. Choosing subjects primarily from The Julliard School’s dance program, Arieli slowly sculpts the photograph through communication. “We worked in front of a white wall and he told me certain things he wanted within the composition including muscular tension and contortion with a relaxed focus in the eyes,” says Austin Goodwin, an undergraduate dancer at Julliard and repeated subject of Arieli’s photographs. “He asked me to move extremely slowly through different positions with my upper body. Throughout this he would stop me and we would explore whatever was working best. Occasionally I would try something different to see if it was cohesive with his idea and from there the collaboration continued between me inserting movement suggestions and Nir giving direction as to focal specifics and body angles. It was a very organic process.”
Arieli’s video work is made the way a photographer should make video, the camera at a fixed point, the frame unwavering. The only thing moving in the picture is the subject himself, performing for the viewer. “Dancers are performers, the process of creating a still image gives them a similar satisfaction to the one they get when the lights come up on stage,” says Arieli to MATTE, “The camera functions as the audience. They are eager to actively contribute to the success of the work. I’m often working with them in a very abstract way of directing, and they are able to translate my words into physical states.”
Beginning his career as a military photographer for the Israeli magazine Bamachane, Arieli now focuses with reticence on beauty. “Beauty is an essential part of every body of work I make. I’m in love with it but I also know I can’t be married to it in the most traditional sense,” says Arieli. His new series entitled “Inframen” looks beneath the skin of his subjects. Exposing flaws in the sitter’s physicality through an infrared process, Arieli freezes these artists at what he considers to be a pivotal time in their lives. “I’d like the viewer to disconnect from the glorious immortal dancer’s image they know from the stage, and notice the fragility of these people, the contrast of their gentle souls against their strong bodies. The ridiculous situation in which the dancer’s whole existence is dependent on his body, and that youth is gone in such a young age. In that sense this project is a lullaby for this beautiful stage in a dancer’s life, when they’re at their best physical shape,” says Arieli. “From now on the body will betray them slowly.” -MATTE Magazine for CCNY
Aneta Bartos, photo by Matthew Leifheit for CCNY
Photographs by Aneta Bartos, curated by Jon Feinstein
At the Carlton Arms Hotel, 160 E 25th Street NYC, rooms 1A and 4A
31 January — 21 February 2013
The Carlton Arms Hotel is entered by pressing a buzzer and then walking up a flight of stairs littered with hand-lettered warning signs not to let the cats escape. The current installation of Aneta Bartos’ series “Boys” curated by Jon Feinstein can be viewed by requesting the keys to rooms 1A and 4A at the front desk, where a checklist of images and curatorial statement are also available. After adjusting to the dim light in the room, some normal fixtures of a hotel become apparent- a charmingly shabby desk, a bed. On the warm gray walls hang murky photographs of young men masturbating in thick cream-colored mattes.
Feinstein and Bartos met as a result of the 2012 exhibition “31 Women in Art Photography” (read my article on this show for Time Magazine’s Lightbox), a large group show which Jon Feinstein curated with Natalia Sacasa for the nonprofit organization he cofounded, Humble Arts Foundation. “The work we included in that exhibition was not part of “Boys” but was equally compelling,” said Feinstein to MATTE, “Aneta approached me shortly after that to work with her on this show. I found her work to be challenging, provocative and beautiful, and much different than other photographers I’ve worked with over the past few years.”
Bartos balances the provocative subject matter of these photographs with a pictorialist treatment. She favors Polaroid media to produce this painterly sfumato, resulting in mottled texture and a warm palette. As Bartos puts it, “I love its quality of a distilled mood.” This approach sweeps the pictures firmly out of the realm of pornography and places them in conversation with painting. The images add to the historical dialogue photography has had with painting. They also comment on the ways in which photography is commonly used in the porn industry. These are erotic images of men made by a woman. “I wanted to challenge what is visually and expressively excepted as beauty in male condition when sexuality is owned by a female perspective,” says Bartos. Feinstein also sees the work as a challenge to current societal norms. “I think now is especially important as we’ve become so accustomed to seeing overly sexualized images of women in the media, in fashion, art etc, but somehow there’s a turn of the head to images of male nudity.”
All of the photographs in the exhibition were shot in rooms at The Carlton Arms. “I first discovered the hotel in 2006,” says Bartos, “I loved it’s crazy-eclectic surreally seedy and gloomy vibe.” Exhibiting these photographs in the same space they were made in completely alters the footing of the viewer. Instead of the separation the audience is usually afforded by a traditional gallery space from the actual scene being depicted in a photograph, this installation plants the viewer at the scene of the crime. “I think the dim, old New York atmosphere of the hotel gives a completely different, and much more intimate read than seeing them in a Chelsea white-space gallery,” adds Feinstein.
When asked if the experience of making these pictures is sexual to her, Bartos answers, “Of course it is.” Her subjects are not freelance exhibitionists culled from the internet. Instead Bartos chooses to photograph close friends and people she has known for a long time. By setting the exhibition at The Carlton Arms the viewer is invited into these relationships. Initmacy between subject and photographer is shared with the audience, disturbing the sense of voyeurism typically inherent in viewing pornographic images.
These pictures today represent a very subversive take on beauty. By looking at them we indulge in Bartos’ curiosity, and we gladly become her partner in crime. -MATTE Magazine for CCNY
1989 Brewster, NY
Bobby Doherty is an oracle of the inane.
Doherty chooses not to work within the bounds of a series. Instead, through a language of gestures that vary in subtlety yet maintain the same indefinable spirit, he creates an interchangeable index of obtuse symbols. The subject matter of these photographs varies widely, but the images are held together by the same undertone- a certain kind of mischievousness tempered with deep sincerity and humor. All of Doherty’s pictures are aesthetically coherent as well, veering toward more graphic compositions over time and increasingly marked by bold use of color.
These photos both contribute to and play on the lineage of stock photography and traditional studio photography. One image goes so far as to make use of a Paul Outerbridge photograph as part of the still life. “I think a lot about stock photography,” said Doherty to MATTE, “It’s funny because you’re not exactly meant to feel anything about a stock photo, yet their prime function is to convey some sort of idea in the most obvious way. If anyone were to go into a supermarket and start complimenting the stock food photographs on the coupons they would seem like a total weirdo. But those photographs were chosen specifically because someone thought people would enjoy them.”
At first glance Doherty’s pictures act nonchalant. And then the viewer begins to notice his intervention in the image, the physical action of the artist making visual decisions, and we consider his intent. Through these gestures some element of the image is made wrong, subverting the sense of normalcy and order it initially seems to present. In the vein of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Doherety is a secret agent, working within an existing aesthetic and subverting it to communicate his own very personal ideas. By working alongside the tradition of studio photography Doherty is able to make his images universally sympathetic. The viewer knows how to look at this kind of image already.
Doherty’s work blurs the line between the studio and real life. This is accomplished by both bringing banal objects from his daily life into the studio and by bringing a studio approach to the real world. “I used to feel like a weird 1960s street photographer in my own life,” says Doherty of his transition toward more staged images, “now I’m just some stressed out creep hovering over a little table in my bedroom.”
At the heart of these photographs is a poetic and coy type of candor which embraces humor unreservedly. Asked how he chooses a subject for a photo, Doherty answers, “If it feels familiar.”
—MATTE Magazine for CCNY