new-york

Joel-Peter Witkin

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

Joel-Peter Witkin’s photographs present subject matter that has long characterized the grotesque (“unnatural,” biologically impossible combinations of human, animal, and plant forms) while providing evidence of extreme physical acts and conditions. In his elaborate apocalyptic tableaux sauvages, based on paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Goya, Courbet, Seurat, Grant Wood, and others, the imaginary chimeras, cyclopes, harpies, centaurs, and manticores of old are replaced by amputees, dwarves, transsexuals, and androgynes, severed heads, hands, and feet, fetuses, animal carcasses, and an array of S/M avatars, most of which possess unusual physical characteristics. Almost all of Witkin’s photographs are antiportraits—the faces of the subjects, alive or dead, are masked or otherwise obscured—and represent the artist’s fevered attempts to transfigure the subjects through exaltation and glorification.

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