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Justine Kurland and Francesca Woodman

BravinLee Programs
526 West 26th Street, #211, 212-462-4404
September 11 - October 16, 2010
Reception: Saturday, September 11, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

BravinLee programs is pleased to present an exhibition of photographs by Justine Kurland and Francesca Woodman.

The exhibition consists of a selection of Justine Kurland’s Girl Pictures made between 1998 and 2004 and photographs by Francesca Woodman from the collection of Sloan Rankin made between 1976 and 1978. The exhibition is in collaboration with Robert Klein Gallery in Boston, MA.

The subject of Justine Kurland’s Girl Pictures, are predominately young female figures situated in landscape settings. Kurland achieves a here and now sense and yet they feel located in transcendentalist symbolic realism. Her images are more painterly than photographic; and while they are familiar and contemporary, one can’t help but recall various visual historical references, for instance, the Pre-Raphaelites, Cezanne, Poussin, Courbet, Corot and Eakins, and images of topically rendered classical mythology.

Francesca Woodman’s work, like Kurland’s Girl Pictures have strong references to painterly and literary traditions. As auteurs, Kurland and Woodman are the controlling agents and provocateurs of the unfolding of the image and its emotional, formal and literary import. They share the idea that the still photographer can possess, control and exploit the characteristics and methods of the scene—a level of authority more associated with a dramatic medium such as film-making, theater or the novel. That said, Kurland and Woodman also a share a sense of relinquishing control of the process so that what results has the look and feel of realistic improvisation within the moment and context of the image. In both the viewer is drawn into a stunning theatricality that is self-acknowledging, artificial and staged—and yet utterly convincing.

Another aspect that Kurland and Woodman share is a sense of narrative that feels more like film or a film still. For instance, they both recall the images and ideas present in Peter Weir’s film Picnic at Hanging Rock or Peter Jackson’s early, masterful film Heavenly Creatures.

In the last six years since the Girl Pictures, Kurland has moved into other directions that eschew much of the youthful/eroticism of the Girl Pictures for a sensibility that explores the breathtakingly beautiful and variable landscape and the off-the-beaten-path inhabitants of subcultures of the naturalist American Experience. They possess the heroic texture of John Steinbeck and the gritty proud underclass ruralism of Harry Crews. With Woodman’s pictures, it would be interesting and valuable but perhaps utterly impossible to have an information off-switch—to be able to see Woodman’s photographs that didn’t include the hovering knowledge that she took her own life at age 22. To even mention this in the press-release reinforces its omnipresence. This knowledge unavoidably permeates the views of her work and one can’t help seek for clues—to unravel the image forensically, to understand what might lead to such a profound and irreversible act of rejection of the corporeal world. That said, one returns again and again to the sense that it is more than just us— there is indeed something present and unsettled and at risk in her images. The pictures do indeed hint that in life Woodman may have already been preparing her art as if she had one foot into some alternative world.
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