Critics’ Picks

Carrie Schneider, The Kiss, 2008, color photograph, 40 x 50".

Carrie Schneider, The Kiss, 2008, color photograph, 40 x 50".


Carrie Schneider

451 N Paulina Street
October 17–December 6, 2008

Although the artist is the principle figure in the photographs and films that make up Carrie Schneider’s first solo exhibition at this gallery, this is not a show of self-portraiture. Instead, Schneider is playacting, assuming roles and portraying caricatures from Finnish- and Estonian-inspired mythology. This is a risky practice for a young artist, since today’s favored chronicles are based in highly subjective and idiosyncratic experiences. By contrast, Schneider esteems conventional and moralistic forms of storytelling, thus risking cliché. Yet she avoids the pitfalls inherent in staging recognizable fables and familiar allegories by inserting art-historical quotes into her images and films. Caspar David Friedrich’s Baltic landscapes, Joseph Beuys’s iconic gray suit, Peter Land’s inept body control, and Eija Liisa Ahtila’s psychologically charged videos are conspicuous sources and citations in Schneider’s work. Rene Magritte’s painting The Lovers, 1928, is directly quoted in the photograph The Kiss, 2008. However, Schneider’s shrouded heads don’t occupy the same surreal interior/exterior space as Magritte’s couple. Instead, Schneider’s embracing pair stand at the brink of a choppy sea. Dress of Good Weather (How Not to Fall), 2008, is a five-minute film that takes place on a rocky, moss-strewn Finnish seacoast, where a young woman (Schneider) sports a plain dress that reflects the illuminated sky. Utö, 2008, is a film set in the same environment. Here Schneider slips into and out of body via the metaphor of a gray wool felt suit. Time and space are vast in her tales, which vulnerably examine reason in the presence of natural wonder. This theme is codified in her two large-scale photographs of Finnish queens, one wearing a headpiece made from two kinds of lichen. The other, Queen of This Island (Suomenlinna), 2008, wears an outlandish crown of juniper branches and berries.