Leigh Ledare’s photo series at the Greater New York show at PS1 features his mother as model. The photos depict her most often in the nude, genitals directed toward the camera and sometimes with a partner. The color photos seem faded and grainy, almost a nod to the quality of both 1970s family photo albums and 1970s pornography. Tina Peterson, once a talented ballerina poised for greatness became a stripper with an evident penchant for exhibitionism. She smiles and eyes the photographer; she is not aiming to seduce. She is displaying herself.
Perhaps considered by some to be tawdry or exploitative, the photos alone are not what is truly captivating about the show. The images are, of course, jarring given the relationship of model and photographer. This attention-starved exhibitionist mother is not the crux of the series. The star of the photographs is the relationship. If a person was unaware of the kinship of model/artist, would the photos be as captivating? As Ledare tells it, he showed up at his mother's house after not seeing her for over a year. She answered the door naked and lead him into her bedroom where there was a naked young man. This was Ledare's orientation and he accepted the invitation. Leigh began photographing her at her request to document her body and later, its deterioration. The staples of motherhood and age, stretch marks as well as the mark of gravity do not dissuade Tina from fully exposing herself. Vanity is not the only excuse. She is also shown nude after an accident in which she sports a neck brace. This was a jaunt through Oedipal territory via photography and while Ledare and Peterson never pose together, the other people in the photos are certainly surrogates. Nude self-portraits are a direct nod to the part he plays in this taboo endeavor. He sexualizes himself and in that, appears to play surrogate for his absent biological father.
In later photos, Tina no longer looks the fiery temptress. In a video on display, you can see she has aged, her face free of makeup and she looks truly beaten down by the path she has taken. She cries hysterically to her son who holds her as she weeps. The video does the job that the photos can’t quite communicate. The photos are unremarkable. The story is all.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Leigh Ledare-Greater New York at PS1
Posted by PAShindler at 1:04 PM