New York

Collier Schorr

303 Gallery

I guess sometimes it’s impossible to tell. Walking down the street, I would never mistake myself for a woman, though others have, and mistakes happen every time I pick up the phone to talk to someone who doesn’t know or expect me. Those who know the “me” register never mistake me for some other me, but not-myself-today vertigo is a commonplace of certain daily lives. Collier Schorr knows this vertigo. She investigates how easily all bodies are mistaken, shifting, and this shift may be their perfection—the dawn and dusk of (gender, sexuality?) what makes them desired.

“Night and Day,” 1994, a series of 16 black and white and color photographs of a particularly winsome boy, provided stills from the movie of the boy’s becoming—that is, of his becoming something lovely to look at and think about. Long shot: this boy has not yet grown into what he might be. Medium shot: he lingers on a hillside and by a tree, his arms drooping at his side, his thumbs in the back pockets of his jeans. He stands around waiting for something to happen and what happens is neither gender nor sexuality, although it is those things, too: what happens is time, which, like these careful yet nonchalant photos, repeats but is never the same. The boy touches himself lightly on the tummy, looking down, eyes closed, socks on but no shoes, all of this to see if he is still here: he is, but he is not what he just was. In Lovely to Feel and to Touch, he is just being, himself that is, passing time, and passing as something he is not yet and never was. In James Purdy’s Boy his big boy’s hands, mapped with beautiful veins, hold him together. Close-up: someone’s arm pals around him. Another close-up: in color, in John Rechy’s Boy, he wears makeup. His look is forever, until tomorrow.

Schorr’s titles frequently allude to writers and writing (John Rechy, Paul Bowles, James Purdy, Ethan Frome, and The Singing Detective) whose subject is often the weird changing stuff of masculinity. “Photography” means written with light, and Schorr’s work suggests that gender, sexuality, and time are something written—something mediated—as well. In her stormy black and white photos, like Shirtless, Schorr captures the gentle intimacy of Edward Weston’s nude portraits of his son Neil. By replacing the boy with herself in The Last to Know What It’s Like to Be a Traitor, she shows how Cindy Sherman’s carnival of the self could be pared down to the simple costume of someone else’s body. The viewer, like the artist, must begin again each time—at what and whom am I looking? Is her looking his look or his hers? Who is who? Schorr’s work is in contemplative dialogue with Larry Clark’s, the insistent gazing of his book 1992: candid, sleepy teens letting it all hang out. Watching someone else, which is like watching time, becomes a radical act when that someone else is yourself .

To accompany her photographs, Schorr curated a small show of three pieces called “A Perfect Day.” Mark Morrisroe’s portrait of Jack Pierson, Jonathan (Provincetown), 1982, bordered by sherbet apostrophes, and Vito Acconci’s Model for Personal Island, 1992, an afternoon idyll, were lovely but overshadowed by Siobhan Liddel’s Untitled, 1994—quiet, hidden Venetian-blind curls of small pieces of paper, strung on a thread, dangling in a corner, hanging on a tiny nail. On the outside, the curves were plain, almost the color of the wall, but the interior puckered lemon yellow, as if the only way to care for something were to curl care around it, to protect it from everyone who will walk past without noticing its lonely, whispering beauty. Liddel’s hushed fancy echoed the sad calm of Schorr’s entire show, especially the overwhelming light-saturated Das Schloss (Horsti), 1994, where the boy again, the again boy, hid in a tree, feline, a perfect creature of time going by.

Bruce Hainley