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“Corpus,” Alvin Booth at Fahey/Klein

Tied up and Turned on
It is instructive to compare Whitman’s artless images of naked women to the artful photographs of nude women and men by Alvin Booth at the Fahey/Klein Gallery. (No frame shop on the side in this prestigious, top-of-the line gallery.) The exhibition is accompanied by a handsome book; Corpus: Beyond the Body. (Available for $65. from Abbeville Press, Inc., 22 Cortlandt St. New York, NY, 10007, Tel: 212-815-0231.) The press release states, “Alvin Booth’s photography can be described as an obsessive sensual investigation.” Yep. What he likes to do is tie things up - body parts generally and breasts and genitals specifically. Then he paints everything gold.  He ties the parts really tight so that they take on different forms. They look like sculptures and it looks like it might hurt, or at least must be terribly uncomfortable. But I don’t think it’s a consideration. This is Art. Booth’s photographs are exquisitely toned and tinted and printed and mounted in custom made metal frames, which are then arranged in grids of sixteen, six or nine. They are powerful to look at, gorgeously produced, uneasy making, frightening and compelling all in the same moment. All the models have stunningly perfect bodies in the manner of washboard flat stomachs, long limbs and voluptuous breasts. Only occasionally do we see a face. Not a speck of cellulite here. It is the body beautiful.  We are titillated voyeurs to one man’s perverse obsession. (In a short interview with this British born former hairdresser, whose American wife is his agent, he seemed the gentlest of souls. All of the ties and corsets are fabricated out of latex and Booth says none of it hurts.) 

Booth’s work brings to mind the Chez Girls Club in that we, the viewers, can in the privacy of a gallery, or at home alone with the book, sit in the putative seats of those men who must pay $20 to see live girls (but no touching). The book costs more and it’s a classier deal, but it meets a similar need. This is not to imply that these images don’t have merit. They do. Booth’s masterfully bound bodies bring to mind Maillol and Mapplethorpe and Rodin, only with a twist. We marvel at the wondrous shapes the human form can take and Booth’s splendid images allow us to stare unmolested, and for free!


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