TORCH Gallery is pleased to present Seven Pleiades, the second solo show by New York photographer Justine Kurland.
Seven Pleiades is at the same time the name of the exhibition, the name of a picture within the exhibition and a reference to Antiquity, more particularly to the seven tragic poets of Alexandria. As the visual web of lines and colors that stitch together figure and background into one single plane, each of Justine Kurland’s pictures is a platform for other texts to play. From literature to cinema, from painting to photography, its web of (self-) references quietly spreads in a ritual that we might as well call postmodern. Within the picture, seven pregnant women stand for the seven poets of Alexandria. Silently, they gather around a fire repeating Justine Kurland’s other previous mises-en-scène of a lost paradise. The contrast of their naked pregnant bodies seemingly at ease in this cold environment is only one of the many plays that result in a sense of mythic harmony. More than ever, Seven Pleiades dramatizes the possibility of utopia, of resolving the tensions between nature and culture, the individual and the community, what is private and public embodied in the women’s pregnancy. Contrasting with the literacy and universality of her themes, Kurland’s work does constitute a document. “These photographs were made during extended road trips, while visiting and living among ‘hippie’ communes around America” (Justine Kurland). It is from this very personal encounter that the possibility arose for disclosure and manipulation. As Justine tells us “the naked figures in the color photographs have willingly undressed for my camera.” Document and artifact, particular and universal, Kurland’s Seven Pleiades constitute a brilliant and pleasurable reflection on photography, while inscribing itself in its best tradition, when photographs constitute “a shared act of faith, a romantic gesture impelling us towards a transcendental experience of being human in the world.” (Justine Kurland)