Critics’ Picks

Conrad Ventur, Untitled, 2010–14, digital C-print from 35 mm, 30 x 20''.

Conrad Ventur, Untitled, 2010–14, digital C-print from 35 mm, 30 x 20''.

New York

Conrad Ventur

Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York
126 & 128 Baxter St
November 2–December 3, 2016

For Warhol’s aging Superstars, underground-legend status doesn’t pay the bills. Ivy Nicholson—the gorgeous, angular, eccentric Brooklyn-born fashion model and actress of the 1950s who became a Factory regular in the ’60s—has spent her golden years in poverty. Conrad Ventur’s seductive and unsettling color photographs (all works cited, 2010–14) show her still glamorous, with winged black eyeliner and a henna-red fringed hairstyle, uncannily photogenic even in difficult circumstances. His fascination with Warhol’s queer orbit is longstanding; previous projects include a collaborative series with drag performer and superstar Mario Montez, and a restaging of the Pop artist’s famous screen tests—forty-five years later—with many of his original subjects, from Jonas Mekas to Ultra Violet and Billy Name. But Nicholson may raise the thorniest issues. In this group of photographs, we see her in humble, precarious domestic interiors with her adult twin children Gunther and Penelope Palmer; there is also a shot of her lying on the street, curled up in a dark green sleeping bag.

The discomfort prompted by such intimate, exposing images is mostly allayed by Nicholson’s apparent command of the photographer–subject relationship. Other shots, however low budget and curiously improvised, are clearly planned. In one untitled photo, Nicholson strikes a coy pose at the bottom of a playground slide on a sunny day, wearing a beaded tiara, white thigh-high stockings patterned with red lips, and beat-up silver flats. In another, she’s an oracle offering handfuls of leaves to the sky. In one more, she’s a taunting vision in pleather. Age is not an impediment to her, and she loves the camera’s love.