Saturday, May 14, 2016


Yancey Richardson Gallery hosted an opening last night for photographer Sandro Miller. There are gallery openings virtually every evening in small and large, established and pop-up galleries in every borough of the city. You can't possibly go to all of them but anytime Yancey has one and I'm around I'm on the list to attend.
Last night she previewed the collaborative work of photographer, Sandro Miller, and actor/artist, John Malkovich. This pairing of creative talents began back in the 1990's when the two met and worked on a project for Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater Company. The relationship has continued to bear fruit through the decades with a series of collaborations

In 2013 Miller proposed a photo project to Malkovich where the two would recreate iconic images of 20th century photography. Miller spent years researching not only the composition of the images but all of the technical aspects as well: the lighting, the costuming, the settings and then going beyond to the printing techniques so that the images matched as closely as possible to the originals in size, printing paper, finish and tonal quality. It was then John Malkovich's task to transform himself into the skin and mindset of the people in each of these iconic images. They settled on forty-one portraits. All of the images were reimagined in a studio with a team of set builders, lighting designers, and make-up artists. The results hanging on the walls of Yancey's gallery are breathtaking.
The work bends both gender and age in a way only a  pair of genius transformers could do. The work goes far beyond mimicry. It blends both the work of Cindy Sherman who transforms herself in front of the camera and Mark Beard who transforms his persona as the artist behind the camera.
The pairings of Malkovich and Miller produced an eerie symbiosis reproducing the finite point in time captured on film in the relationships between Warhol and Monroe,

Karsh and Hemingway,
Leibovitz and Lennon
and Nicholson and Ritts.
Miller and Malkovich had a real affinity for Diane Arbus. They bent gender in one more dimension than she did
and then they mixed up age and size in a way that took a six-foot man and transformed him into a four-foot boy with all the anger and disappointment Arbus had intended.
There is so much to recommend this show I don't know where to stop: the fear and destitution on the face of Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother,
the lack of fear and nonchalance on the face of Richard Avedon's Beekeeper,
and the power and ownership of attitude in William Klien's Smoke and Veil  woman for Vogue.
We've been collectors for a long time. I have a bucket list of photos I'd love to add to the collection most of which are now economically out of reach. One photo that still sits on my list is Horst P. Horst's Mainbocher Corset photo. There's such dynamic forces of composition going on in this photo; the lines of the truncated arms, the draping of the corset strings and the shadows cast by the marble ledge make for one of the most significant fashion photos of the 20th century. Miller and Malkovich have replaced the original on my list with their rendition. This is an instance when the sequel may be more powerful than the original and all because of what these two geniuses were able to bring to a silver gelatin print.

Since I started with the gallery this time I'm ending with the end of the day and the subway voice of Alice Tan Ridley. She made a dank subway sparkle.

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