George Krause

Harris Gallery

In the 1960s nonverbal communication was a hot topic of conversation, especially the idea that unconsciously assumed bodily postures reveal subconscious scenarios. To the perceptive onlooker this body language supposedly revealed potent psycho-social messages accompanying, but frequently contradicting, spoken language.

In a joint venture with a young, flexible female, George Krause contorts his body to produce acrobatic equivalents of the letters of the alphabet and then photographs the results. This series entitled “Krause Roman,” 1989, is a continuation of his “I Nudi” studies, but here—tongue in cheek, foot in mouth, and even knee to the groin—we are taught the naked fundamentals of a Body Language. The gross artificiality of the poses is both unnatural in terms of bodily comportment and antithetical to idealizations of the nude in historical art. Bill Brandt, Man Ray and André Kertesz never wrenched nude models into such contorted postures.

Unavoidable stresses and unexpected glitches are the backbones of this alphabet. Krause, as both photographer and protagonist, proposes an analogy between what is physically possible and what is legible, hopping back and forth from the self-timed camera to his partner. His bare-bones approach to the ABC’s poses an exhilarating and exhaustive challenge not only to the viewer’s sense of equilibrium but to the imagination, which is utterly dependent upon the sympathetic interaction of the two figures. In other words, it becomes a paradigm of the difficulties in verbal communication itself, as well as a sly dig at the academicism of much recent discussion around the nature of signs and signification. Krause placed many smaller prints of outtakes at quixotic angles above a long eye-level row of the 26 letters, cutting the didactic effect, with dancing accents and wayward quotation marks.

Communication bridges gaps in understanding by means of a conventional sign systems. The gaps are always there and are as tangible, yet elusive, as the necessary intervals between written shapes and spoken sounds. In this series tensions, oppositions, and connections abound: the model is young and Krause is middle-aged, she is tall, lithe, and well coiffed; he is stocky, spectacled and balding. Both bodies are pale against the dark background. They’re physically attached without being erotically engaged, and the shapes between them are as significant as the parts that are contiguous. Their deliberately contrived efforts seem like metaphors for attempted communication. Yet, how much of what is expressed between two people is ever really understood? How snug is the fit of a translation from one language to another?

Joan Seeman Robinson