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Arno Rafael Minnkinen, Self-Portraits From Four Decades

Barry Friedman Ltd.
515 West 26th Street, 212-239-8600
November 15 - December 22, 2007
Reception: Thursday, November 15, 6 - 7 PM
Web Site

The forty-two images in the exhibition, thirty-five of which are murals measuring approximately 3.5 by 5 feet, trace Minkkinen’s highly original form of self-portraiture from the 70s, 80s, 90s, to the present decade. Minkkinen’s unmanipulated, remarkable, black-and-white pictures of his own naked body interacting with the physical environment constitute a unique contribution to contemporary photography and have been exhibited in numerous museums around the world. Literally immersed in nature, his images show him buried in snowdrifts, submerged under rapids, hanging over precipices, and striding the still surface of pristine lakes. Minkkinen’s photographs envision the human body as a powerfully unfamiliar form, transformed by its encounters with the world.

The photographs in the exhibition are arranged in groupings that stress the visual and poetic connections between works from different periods of time. Strongly abstract, Minkkinen’s images often focus on his disembodied arms or legs. Images of hands or fingers juxtaposed with the landscape can appear either isolated or reaching out to a tree or mountain that in reality may be far in the distance.

At times, Minkkinen’s entire body becomes a sculptural entity, a human presence relating to stark expanses of nature and time. One fine example in the exhibition is Birth Places, 2000, a triptych measuring seven and a half feet across. Each panel of the triptych shows one-third of the photographer’s stretched-out body—bridging from feet to hands over three bodies of water—seemingly balanced only by the tips of his fingers and toes. The images were shot on three successive frames and printed as one piece: the first in Finland, the second in Massachusetts, and the third in Japan. Together the three images represent the birthplace of the photographer, his son, and his father.

The thrust of the exhibition focuses on the last two years with Minkkinen in settings ranging from China to Mexico to Norway. These new works show a shift in his emphasis that began about a decade ago from photographs with a sense of timelessness to those with clear cultural and historical references. This work includes Minkkinen’s responses to urban life and architecture, both historical and modern, and to interiors and objects, as seen in the hands and feet on the whimsical, spiraling Nude Descending a Staircase, 2005. The images can be startling and surreal as much as lyrical or humorous, as in A Man and His Dog, 2007 in which the photographer’s shadow becomes his own canine companion.

The critic A.D. Coleman underscores the pleasure in encountering Minkkinen’s work: “Elegant, witty, inventive, and often stunningly beautiful, the pictures he creates in these circumstances stand first and foremost as acts of visual creativity … these photographs form an astonishing account of one man’s primal engagement with the civilized and natural worlds, and with himself—both a physical odyssey and a psychological voyage of the human spirit.” Coleman’s essay appears in the large-format book, Saga: The Journey of Arno Rafael Minkkinen, published by Chronicle Books.
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