Critics’ Picks

New York 2 (Grand Central), 2003.

New York 2 (Grand Central), 2003.

New York

Spencer Tunick

I-20 Gallery
557 West 23rd Street
May 8–June 19, 2004

Spencer Tunick is often seen as a kind of one-trick pony, traveling the globe photographing crowds of naked people in public spaces. But when you look at this exhibition of recent work, created in cities from São Paulo to Helsinki, it’s hard not to be drawn into his world. Like Vanessa Beecroft with her armies of women (or just plain armies), Tunick thrives on pattern and repetition: a pose repeated by a few thousand bodies; a virtually unbroken sea of flesh; row after row of dark heads in South America. Each photo has its own conceit, from the all-women conclave in Grand Central to the bowed backs in front of the Saatchi Gallery in London. Most affecting, though, are the photos that have less of a carnival air, conjuring instead some of the more frightening connotations of mass nudity, like concentration-camp victims—as in the rows of bodies lying along a river in Melbourne 3, 2001. A video in the back room at I-20 captures a jubilant mob of nudes running through the streets of Santiago, past religious protesters—a spontaneous eruption of liberated expression in the land of Pinochet. Here, more than anywhere, you sense how Tunick works in the spirit of other art-world outsiders like Christo, who, rather than just passing through a place, create a community in the process of creating art.