Articles / Reviews

Women: The Work of Iris Klein

Iris Klein's ghostly, graceful, and beautiful images invite us into a place of mystery with a dreamlike narrative of confrontation. A woman in white standing in a room, lying provocatively on a bed, sitting at a desk – always alone, always still, perhaps waiting. We are invited, if not forced, to read the relationship between the figure and the environment, as in Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills. And similarly, the female figure as a place holder reveals invisible forces at play. However, whereas in Sherman's series the artist's own body occupies famous, culturally iconic scenarios, Klein's settings are familiar because they are studies in the mundane, the same nondescript spaces we occupy all the time, but revealed to us (through photographic reversal and attention to contrast) as murky shadow worlds. Inhabiting these worlds is not Klein's body but a simulacrum, a featureless life-sized rag doll “peeled off” her body.  Klein's work brings novel perspectives on intentionality, subjectivity, and gaze into the photographic discourse.

In these works, where resides the feminine, the individual? Is it in the doll, the act of peeling in its construction, it’s posing, what we gaze, what is revealed, or what is unrevealed? Where lies the intentionality of pose found in conventional photographic portraiture, particularly when there seems to be no question in this case of the subject’s using a mirror or of consciously trying to project an idealized image? If the clicking of the real or metaphoric camera signifies the social acknowledgement or recognition upon which subjectivity depends; if in other words, the subject depends upon the camera for his or her specular affirmation, then what happens when, as in the case of Klein’s photographic images, the subject is a doll?


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