David Magnusson + Sophie Kirchner

David Magnusson + Sophie Kirchner

Image from the Purity series by David Magnusson.

David Magnusson + Sophie Kirchner

Image from Male Sport series by Sophie Kirchner

February 6 – March 28

Curatorial Statement

You may be wondering what David Magnusson’s Purity and Sophie Kirchner’s Male Sport could possibly have in common to unite them in this exhibit, (beyond their exquisite execution as a series of portraits). Magnusson’s airy and otherworldly palette creates a stark contrast to Kirchner’s bold and grounded aesthetic. We might assume that Kirchner’s athletes are in control, and the young girls in Purity are passive, but on a closer look, there is a range of control and vulnerability represented in each of the projects.

The females in these series have chosen unconventional roles that land them on the fringe of the current, mainstream expectations that we often hold for women. These projects provoke strong initial reactions and assumptions from viewers about the roles that these females occupy. However, both subjects inhabit identities that are far more complex than they seem at first glance.

Although aesthetically quite different, Magnusson is working like a contemporary Robert Frank. As in Frank’s project The Americans, Purity provides an outsider’s view of the inner workings of a segment of North American culture. This approach produces a nuanced perspective that may be too close for us to view fairly for ourselves.

Structurally, Mangusson and Kirchner both draw from a German (and perhaps more broadly European) lineage in portraiture. In this tradition, the photographer chooses limitations and parameters to establish overall consistency. The sameness pushes the smaller details and differences more sharply into our awareness, and we glean intimacy from these details. In Kirchner’s portraits, droplets of water and sweat, flushed skin and little strands of flyaway hair become meaningful details. But the most striking detail is the gaze, of which the subjects are very much in control. In the gallery, each individual emerges from the grid, powerfully connecting the viewer with intentional and direct eye contact.

Magnusson invites you to compare the gestures of each family pair, like the specific position of the father’s embrace or whether the girl’s eyes are open or closed. These gestures can make a significant difference in the level of autonomy that each girl projects. As North Americans, it is especially elucidating to see one of our own subcultures photographed in this light. Europeans have been greatly fascinated by these pictures as a representation of the United States. It’s good to bring the pictures back home to examine as part of our own culture.