Untitled 19. 2008. Image courtesy of Christopher West presents.
Indianapolis gallery Christopher West Presents recently opened a show of new photography by Craig Doty called Women. Quoted from Christopher West, some information on Doty:
"Craig Doty received his MFA from Yale University in 2006. He earned his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a Concentration in Photography in 2003. His exhibitions include the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (solo), the Sydney Center for Photography in Sydney, Australia and Baumgartner Gallery, New York and many others."
The work is quite provocative, and very interesting in what is concealed and what is revealed within each photograph. There is a definite sense of the abject. The viewer is confronted with a piece of a story, with many other pieces of the story intentionally not supplied by Doty and thus left for the viewer to decode or invent. The sense of tension is quite evident, and frankly many of the photographs seem to document moments that were meant to be unremembered, and perhaps therein lies their power. Disheveled, caught in awkward poses (if they can even be called poses), these women are almost guaranteed to provoke a reaction of some sort from viewers.
It would be very easy to label this body of work as misogynistic, but that would be reductive and altogether incorrect when Women is considered in the context of Doty's ouevre. Doty has always portrayed his subjects (or objects---more on that shortly) in compromising positions. Doty shows a definite progression in the quality of his work in Women, and this is the first time that his subjects have not been male.
The following are excerpts from the essay "On 'Women'" by Marc LeBlanc that really put the work into context for me.
Craig, 2001. Image courtesy of Christopher West Presents.
"In one of his better known works, drunk coming down a wooden backyard staircase, Doty himself has slipped and fallen forward, smashing his 40 oz. and his face in the process. Where moments earlier he may have been holding court, we now stop to look at what a failure he has become, a reflexivity that acknowledges that no one escapes the fatalism of our world. Made both magic and terrible, Doty's new photographs of women push for a greater discomfort. The tactics of humor have dissolved; the optimism of comedy is squelched."
"With each image pointing out that no one escapes life seeing them as an object, claims of discrimination are deadened. Being distinguished as an object rejects affiliation with any group, it is sexless, race-less, and hopeless in its dearth of humanity."
"This is not portraiture, these are not models, any thematic pretenses for the purpose of dignity are unneeded when we address the subject whose fate is to be an object. Instead of the socially constructed victim, the marginalized or mistreated subject, what is presented is the subject so tragic it has no subjectivity to assert, determined to exist depersonalized, determined to be the waste they must become."
conversations with Christopher West on Craig Doty Women