Sam Bayer at Ace Gallery Through April 27


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EXHIBITION ON VIEW FROM
MARCH 3, 2013 THROUGH APRIL 27, 2013
Depicting the human body has been among the primary preoccupations and
achievements of artists for millennia. Drawing inspiration from historic precedents in
painting, sculpture, photography and film history, for the past twenty years Samuel
Bayer has produced still photographs alongside his innumerable award-winning music
videos, film and commercials. Bayer has evolved an aesthetic of gritty rawness, a now
emblematic style that has typified his music videos since his groundbreaking first with
Nirvana in 1991. The culmination of his recent photography is a large-scale series of
black and white photographic nude portraits, being exhibited for the first time at Ace
Gallery Beverly Hills.

 

A series of sixteen nudes, shot in three sections with a large-format 4” x 5” camera in
the studio against a simple white backdrop, envision larger-than-life contemporary
studies of young women, tackling the time-immemorial subject of the nude. They are
accompanied by two diptychs of faces in extreme close-up, eyes open, eyes closed;
the features and cool gaze of his subjects reveal every freckle, line and follicle. Face;
eyes, hair – features become a landscape to traverse as our eye wanders human terrain.
These are models and individuals Bayer has worked with and known over the past
decade, becoming living archetypes in the colossal scale of ancient goddesses looming
above a viewer at over 14ft. As contemporary studies of the female form, these
women would not have existed in the mid-twentieth century prior to the sexual
revolution of the 1960s when artists began to reconsider the body as a politicized
terrain and explored issues of gender, identity, and sexuality manifest in photographers
such as Diane Arbus, Robert Mapplethorpe, Larry Clark, Hannah Wilke, Nan Goldin
and Cynthia MacAdams.


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In Bayer’s new series, we see an ongoing biological and sociological evolution. Posed
frontally and exposed, they might be perceived as vulnerable on a smaller scale,
however the straight gaze and the enlarged scale creates an intimation of a nearapproaching
new race of superwomen quietly waiting in the wings. A viewer is
surrounded by these unadorned figures, provoking possible intimidation in their
directness, uncompromised by faux modesty. Women have changed, transformed and
advanced since Artemisia Gentileschi’s confrontation with the male gaze.
Bayer does not objectify his models in a way that Herb Ritts “saw parts of the body’s
surface in precisionist terms, often adding mud, skin paint, sand, and other materials to
sensually emphasize the follicles and pores of the epidermis,”1 verging on scopophilic
fixation with the exaggeratedly buff gym-engineered body.

 

Samuel Bayer was born in upstate New York in 1965 and grew up in Syracuse, New
York. He graduated from New York City’s School of Visual Arts in 1987 with a degree
in Fine Arts. At the age of 26, Bayer set out to Los Angeles to begin his career as a
music video director and he went on to direct over 200 music videos with the likes of
The Rolling Stones, Greenday, John Lee Hooker, Marilyn Manson, Metallica, Smashing
Pumpkins, David Bowie, Aerosmith, and Lenny Kravitz. Bayer won an Emmy for the
2011 Super Bowl commercial for Chrysler, Born of Fire featuring Eminem; Bayer’s
commercials are represented in the permanent film/video collection at the Museum of
Modern Art in New York City.


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