philadelphia

Susan Fenton

Paul Cava Gallery

This recent exhibition of Susan Fenton’s painted photographs presented two bodies of work, one produced in France and one in Japan, where the artist is now living. Place has always been a factor in Fenton’s work, a subtext that underlies the immediately apparent subject matter and marks the extent of her experience in foreign places. The artist’s first important work evolved while she was living in Rome—the city became a source for the ritualized, ceremonial attitudes of her figures and the objects that accompany them.

Fenton’s general practice consists first of a highly controlled studio preparation during which a solitary model’s head might be capped or wrapped and then arranged into what seems like a tight still-life space rather than the expansiveness of a portrait. Facing down or away, these busts remain objectified by their refusal to meet our gaze. Presented—but never portrayed—they

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