Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Malerie Marder

After graduating from college in upstate New York, Malerie Marder moved to Los Angeles, California in 1999. Her work seems to be steeped in the sun-drenched, sprawling, cinematic city where she lives. Los Angeles is the epicenter of our country's media - where the camera is ubiquitous, and body appearance is a top concern. I associate the city with plastic surgery, and other methods of maintaining a youthful appearance - something that concerns Marder, as she says in the Parkett 2012 interview: "I don’t mind years going by, but the body getting older, it’s terrible. It’s not for me... I’m not fine with it visually or in any other way." Her work questions the hierarchical relationship between bodily appearance and interior worth set forth by this culture, by photographing nudes as they are, with all imperfections and irregularities intact. Her cinematic images invoke the image based media inundating American cities like LA.
Marder's image making strategies invoke cinema, but they do not always critique it. I find her work, especially her color photographs, to hover somewhere too close to pornography. Many of her earlier photographs depict a couple in an embrace, and for me these are the more problematic of her photos. I chose the black and white photograph above as the example of her "most successful work," because unlike the couple embracing and closing the viewer out of the narrative (or creating a voyeur of the viewer), this photo implicates us through the woman's gaze, inviting us into the frame. The narrative of this work is not prescribed - it is a difficult read. I think Marder's strengths in general in her work are her beautiful aesthetic sensibility, and her ability to create atmosphere. There is an intimacy in many of her photos, through the vulnerability of the naked subjects, though occasionally it tips from vulnerability to something more aggressive and exhibitionist, alienating me as a viewer. Her later work is a series of photographs of prostitutes from Europe, and I have more trouble with these images - they are at times sensitive and stunning, and at times seem prescribed and leaning on cliches.

Marder seems to almost always use composition to create meaning and implicate the viewer. The angle of the photograph is always that of the human eye, the vantage point of being in the room. In many of her images, the figure or figures are front and center, yet their gaze is rarely at the camera. Even in the photo below, the woman is looking out of the frame, staring off into space. This creates a situation where the image does not acknowledge the existence of the viewer, creating distance between the two. Her images are composed with little movement, the gestalt images sit on the page to create stillness. However, the narrative implied by the spaces and figures Marder chooses to photograph gives it a sense of movement through time, or movement through a story. The play between these two effects - that of visual stillness and narrative movement - adds to the cinematic feel of the images. They read as film stills read - chosen for their beautiful aesthetic qualities, but part of a larger context and ongoing story.
"For an image to be powerful it has to, in some regards, insinuate death."
Malerie Marder, Acne Paper 2012

-Katie Walker

1 comment:

Malchionno said...

Great job -Katie -what a thoughtful assessment of Marder's work.