Tied up and
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.)
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!