The recently opened Collier Schorr exhibition at 303 Gallery suggests a fresh dialogue on appropriation, a trend in art that has been associated with photographic work more often than any other medium since the 80s, and is here taken up again by a long-time photographer. Instead of Richard Prince’s infamous rephotographing of Marlboro ads or Jeff Koons’ re-sculpting of the kitsch, though, Schorr’s practice stands closer to the likes of Sherrie Levine or Barbara Kruger, presenting new discussions on feminism, the female body and its place in the contemporary aesthetic discourse.
Collier Schorr, The Bricks (2013), Courtesy of Collier Schorr and 303 Gallery, New York The exhibition’s title, 8 Women, refers to François Ozon’s 2002 film of the same title, structured as a pastiche of different film genres. Blurring the line between authenticity and appropriation, the exhibition celebrates the repurposing of Schorr’s own photographs in a similar manner, and restrained by the conventional mediums and genre formats of the magazine. By twisting visual tropes, compositional formats and structural conventions in order to suggest new and undiscovered ways of seeing, Schorr discovers hidden or untouched meanings in photography. The fact that what the artist is using as her resource is her own oeuvre adds another layer to the discussion, questioning the origin of authorship.
As the artist goes back to her own collection of photographs, as she mines her archive, she acts not just to repurpose, but also to rename. This search to discover new languages in her already existing works reflects an interesting image of the artist’s journey into her own creativity. Taken at different times for different purposes, these photographs by Schorr herself each approach new forms of aesthetic technique, and assume new threads of argument.
In In the Collage II (Marie) the artist uses two different photographs of a nude female model folded cylindrically into a three-dimensional work. This manipulation transcends the medium of photography and creates an experience to be viewed from all angles. In Dorothea, the artist manifestly uses a magazine page from 2012 as her source of material. Besides the photo of the female model that Schorr took herself, this new work also includes a small part of the next page as well, underlining that this is a ‘photo of a photo’. In Photo of Keltie Ferris Schorr shows us another artist Keltie Ferris through her lens. Distorted, cut into three pieces and rephotographed, this rearranged photo of Ferris comes out as one of the most evident examples of Schorr’s strive to repurpose her works in this exhibition.
Besides photography works that are sharp and explicit in their arguments, one work stands out with its subtle yet radiating posture. N.K., the ink portrait of Nicole Kidman from her 2004 film Birth shows the simplistic yet ingenious aspect of Schorr’s artistry: a subtlety achieved not only through the powerful meaning charged in Kidman’s expression, but is also evoked by the tiny cut-out magazine fragment collaged on the actress’s left shoulder.
But in equal measure, Schorr’s exploration of the feminine, and the tropes used to express it, collides with the personalities and body definitions of her subjects. In one piece, transgender performance artist boychild is depicted in a verdant orchard. Channeling her subject’s embrace of gender dualities and sexual ambiguity, Schorr’s work repositions the often tame medium of magazine photography to allow profound alternative viewpoints a strong foothold.
Collier Schorr, 8 Women will be on view at 303 Gallery until April 12th, 2014
— O. C. Yerebakan