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Trying Them On – Curated by Jon Feinstein presented by Humble Arts Foundation and Hendershot Gallery

Hendershot Gallery (old location)
547 West 27th Street, Suite 632, 212-239-3085
January 21 - February 27, 2010
Reception: Thursday, January 21, 6 - 8 PM
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Curated by Jon Feinstein presented by Hendershot Gallery and Humble Arts Foundation

Featuring: Claire Beckett, Helen-Maurene Cooper, Andrea Robbins and Max Becher, and Michael Bühler-Rose

This group exhibition includes four photographers whose work explores fascination with “the other” through gendered, sexual, racial and subcultural costuming. The exhibiting photographers depict white Europeans and westerners who glamorize and vilify other cultures, at times presenting them as the enemy, while at others declaring them a cultural muse. On the surface, the latter appears to be an attempt to understand or elevate them, but in many cases this actually leads to further complication by turning their identities into caricatures. This exhibition also explores the motivations for this role-play: is it an act of mere flattery? What does it mean to try on the skin or culturalsignifiers of another?

Helen Maurene Cooper makes studio portraits of white women from varying socio-economic backgrounds as they costume themselves in various adornments and/or stereotypes of American hip-hop culture. Cooper’s images explore these performances of synthetic identities and investigate where she sees them fail. How do women use cultural synthesis to signify identity of race and class? What happens when economically privileged white women use the same props as less privileged women? At what point do each of these performances break apart and rupture? What is the obsession with the super-feminine and how does it play into “ghetto glam” culture?

Claire Beckett’s series “Simulating Iraq” focuses on military training for the war in Iraq. Her pictures depict the appropriation of Iraqi culture by Americans (both soldiers and civilians) role-playing as Iraqis, using specific costumes, objects and architecture. Shot with a large format camera, her images also raise questions of the nature of documentary photography and the implicit subjectivity of the photographer.

In Michael Bühler-Rose’s series, “Constructing the Exotic,” he photographs American born white women raised with Indian culture, religion, dress, in a new community in suburban Florida. These white women in “foreign” garb ultimately become a new kind of “other” in an environment with which they would generally be associated as a majority group.

Interested in displacements and confusions of cultures, Andrea Robbins and Max Becher’s “German Indians” is a series of photos of Germans participating in an annual celebration called “Karnival”, or “Fashing.” Over a period of several days, participants get together, celebrate, and have parades and parties, all dressed in homemade or store-bought native American costumes which they have mimicked from American movies and other sources.
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