Friday, May 31, 2013

Matuschka and Cindy Sherman Retrospectively: From Dolls to Women

A labyrinthine collection of female images in various photographic styles does not quite capture Matuschka's autobiographical retrospective. The walls of the pocket Sohn Fine Art Gallery pack iconic photos across the 40-year span of her career. Light filters from the picture windows and the open door into the two white rooms, lending a clinical feel to the place. Tucked into a corner next to some jewelry cases hangs the famous Beauty out of Damage, as though it were just another photograph in the series, one amongst her many important works.

Looking back at these highlights from her career, it becomes apparent that Matuschka's portraiture begins to show agency, only after she gained notoriety for the photograph of her breast cancer scar. In so many of her photos, her self-image is passive. Even in Beauty out of Damage, the artist's face is turned away from the camera, as though she hides from both the camera's gaze and her wounding. As cover of the New York Times Sunday Magazine, the somber image becomes a political statement, and its critical reception read the image as representing “agency.” Although a passive positioning of the body, Matuschka's image ironically shifts from her identity as model, photography assistant, and object, to one that actively expresses with the intent to raise cancer awareness.