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A New American Portrait


Jen Bekman Gallery
6 Spring Street, between Elizabeth St. and Bowery, 212-219-0166
East Village / Lower East Side
June 22 - August 3, 2007
Reception: Friday, June 22, 6 - 8 PM
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Co-curated by Ms. Bekman and Jörg Colberg, editor of the influential fine art photography blog Conscientious.

A New American Portrait features photographs by Christine Collins, Jen Davis, Benjamin Donaldson, Amy Elkins, Peter Haakon Thompson, Todd Hido, Alec Soth, Brian Ulrich, and Shen Wei. Their portraits, environmental, posed, and self-portraits among them, express the wide range of practice in modern American portraiture. Mr. Colberg observes: “A portrait lives in the interaction between the photographer and the sitter, a relationship which banishes any notion of objectivity. The work included in this exhibition explores, and at times exposes, this fragile intriguing dynamic.”

These photographs illustrate the inherent contradictions in contemporary portraiture, as seen from a distinctly American point of view. While they appear to be “honest” representations, some revealing and confessional, in truth the subjects exist within narratives and environments carefully constructed by the photographers. Gallery director Jen Bekman comments, “Alec Soth’s Bonnie smiles sweetly while holding her photograph of an angel, serene in her faith, having just shared a Bible passage with Soth condemning people to hell for their sins. Soth’s presence, however, remains as it does in all his work: compassionate rather than condescending. In an untitled portrait from Ulrich’s Thrift series, a young girl assumes a Classical pose amid the glare and chaos of a shopping mall. Hido’s portraits are suffused with sadness and sexuality, ripe with a mysterious narrative. Davis’s self-portraits brutally confront our abiding obsessions with thinness and desirability. The eighteen portraits in this exhibition explore potent themes and emotions which shape contemporary America: sexuality, gender, desire, heroism, consumption, fear, class, hope and loneliness are all in the mix.”
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