Critics’ Picks

Collier Schorr, Olympic Uniform (A Trip to Berlin), 2008, black-and-white photograph, 72 x 54 3/8”.

Collier Schorr, Olympic Uniform (A Trip to Berlin), 2008, black-and-white photograph, 72 x 54 3/8”.

New York

Collier Schorr

303 Gallery
555 W 21st Street
October 29–December 4, 2010

Collier Schorr has been returning to Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany, for nearly two decades. Curious visitor turned assimilated outsider turned intinerant resident: The artist’s ongoing relationship with this provincial southern town has been the subject of several of her well-known photographic series. For example, “Neighbors/Nachbarn,” 2006, comprises sometimes staged, sometimes documentary images that explore the intimacies of daily life with a rich aesthetic that can be at once bucolic, political, sentimental, and erotic; images of flowers, farm animals, and fields are rendered alongside those of local boys posing topless or in military uniform. Greeting visitors at “Journals and Notebooks,” her latest exhibition, is Historian, 2005, a black-and-white print that shows an older man walking under grapevines. This work and others, such as the video Neighbors, 2008, suggest themes of solipsism and revision.

The show’s title is derived from the title of Reborn: Journals and Notebooks (2008), a collection of Susan Sontag’s notebooks that exposes a relentlessly self-examining intellect and whose free-ranging discourse––encompassing camp sensibility, pornography, photography, and fascist aesthetics––is as concerned with personally responding to a subject as it is with trying to determine or historicize it. Schorr, for her part, is an American lesbian Jew; her treatment of the (postwar) Teutonic landscape is thus as complex to read as her proclivity for photographing adolescent boys. One could no doubt discern in her paradoxical gazes an impulse to deterritorialize herself as “other,” to occupy and describe difference. The work suggests multiple interpretations even as it critiques them, underlining the instabilities inherent in any attempt to concoct a cohesive account of history or authorship. In generating a sense of place and cultural inheritance that is both observed and manipulated, Schorr’s art presents history as both concrete and constructed.