Anton Kern Gallery
16 East 55th Street
April 9 - May 14
Beauty has often been in the eye of the patriarchal beholder. Frequently, where the male gaze is concerned, women are weak—their delicate (and delectable) bodies meant to fuel desire and consumerism. A “beautiful” woman, by Western standards, is defined by the Aryan trifecta: blond hair, blue eyes, and pale skin. She is soft, fragile, helpless. And her tearful face divulges a constant need to be saved and cared for.
With imagery sourced from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, Anne Collier’s photographs of women remind us that misogyny is not just found in the fine print of policy, or within a GOP debate. It is a deep-seated cultural phenomenon that pervades everything. The restaging of these found photographs—tricks of advertising that manufacture counterfeit emotions—is a scathing critique of imposed standards of beauty and femininity.
For instance, take the photograph Woman Crying #8, 2016. It depicts a “sincere” tear at the start of a sinuous journey down a woman’s cheek. This tender scene, however, is shattered by the reflection of the photographer’s beauty dish in her iris that no amount of mascara or fake lashes can hide. Hanging nearby is Quality Control, 2016, a magazine advertisement that pairs a camera lens with a picture of a seductive-looking nude woman, poolside, with her ass in the air.
Collier’s work is more than a clinical survey of visual language. It’s a reminder that while scores of women in the past century have made great strides for their rights, the battle for gender equality is far from over.