C MAGAZINE: International Contemporary Art, March 22, 2006

Lori Newdick: Lucky

Corkin Shopland Gallery, Toronto.
 
Lucky is the title of Lori Newdick's new suite of colour photographs, showing fleeting and sometimes uncomfortable glimpses of the interaction between the photographer and her model. The artist's role-reversing photo series (2004-05), on view Corkin Shopland Gallery and at ARCO last fall, cleverly subverts traditional gender positions. Here the photographer is a woman taking pictures of a coy, elusive boy posing for her camera offering his body, captured but obscured in motion, making the negotiated space for the camera, picture and viewer articulated--not exactly clear.

Through Newdick's lens the viewer witnesses an aspect of being-for-performed with tawdry glamour and dreamy abandonment by the photographer's young male model. Some of Newdick's pictures are difficult to make out and defy reading, while other shots depict concealed but legible autoerotic events. The pictures suggest a homoerotic and feminist subtext to the pair's relationship, questioning gender differences and the binary constructs of masculinity and femininity. But in Lucky to some extent this dichotomy is undone; Newdick’s images do not really work in this particular subject/object framework, in which a languid and lithe lad performs a photographic seduction for the self-described dyke's camera.

The title of the exhibition appears in a photograph in bold faux-Gothic font, tattooed on the model's exposed and blurred inner forearm--producing an unexpected erotic visual shock. Newdick achieves an added immediacy and voyeuristic intimacy in these pictures by setting the private performance in vacant and obviously public interior spaces. The hallways staircases that inform the Lucky photographs correspond with our perceptual knowledge of public spaces, which among other evocations elucidates a kind of neoKantian notion of symbolic form, an idea used both by theorists and artists to characterize perspective's status as a form of knowledge--knowledge that is connected to sight. In this suite of photographs, perspective is constructed as representation describing a powerful dynamic that exists between the photographer and her subject: the relationship is one of creating and showing carnal knowledge of each other by performing pictorially.

Already recognized for her photographs trading in images of sexual identity, Newdick's new body of large-scale, sensual prints crosses a threshold because it strips away layers of identity politics. The artist's subject of sexual identity is replaced by sexuality; attraction and attractiveness are harnessed, not sublimated. With Lucky, Newdick questions gender differences by investigating and investing in the reversibility of signs. The artist's enveloping intensity is manifest in the luxuriant blur of her voyeuristic photo suite. She is present in her pictures, whether she appears in the frame or not--resulting in photographic appearances that express more than one kind of sexual preference.


 

Carla Garnet