Book Review: The Hollywood Suites

Book Review: The Hollywood Suites

Acting Out, 1976. Gelatin silver print.  Private Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

Acting Out, 1976. Gelatin silver print.

Private Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

By Natalie Almeida

Steve Kahn: The Hollywood Suites, is an intriguing exploration that takes us directly into the eyes of Steve Kahn and his idea of psychological bondage and containment. Born in Los Angeles, he took up photography at a young age, starting work at a local newspaper throughout grade school. By 1968 he had begun his career as a photojournalist. During this time, Los Angeles was enduring a period of “economic, cultural, and social turbulence,” which hence led to his exploration of non-traditional art. This project consisted of 110 Polaroid studies of feminine nudity and motel interiors. His approach to art making is what led to the display of distinct perspectives with his coverage on feminine bondage and his interest for interior praise.

Nude 31, 1974-1975. Gelatin silver print.  Mary and Dan Solomon Collection, Los Angeles

Nude 31, 1974-1975. Gelatin silver print.

Mary and Dan Solomon Collection, Los Angeles

Kahn rented out rooms in a motel and photographed professional models, nude. These models are portrayed leaning up against walls and door frames. They are isolated and transformed into objects. Kahn presented slides from The Hollywood Suites to a group at CalArts where his work provoked a mixed responses; the issues covered in the images were the same issues that feminists were dealing with — issues of bondage. Despite the feminine sexuality that these women were displaying, Kahn continued to declare these shoots as being, “not exploitative, merely exploring the issue.”

Nude 11, 1974. Gelatin silver print.  Mary and Dan Solomon Collection, Los Angeles

Nude 11, 1974. Gelatin silver print.

Mary and Dan Solomon Collection, Los Angeles

Subsequently, his attention was quickly drawn away from the women he once photographed, and instead toward the mundane rooms in which they posed. He found that rooms devoid of human presence were still powerful conveyors of perplexing narratives and emotions. Pictures of battered walkways and bound doors began to flood his portfolio. Askew curtains hanging from windows and doors introduced a sense of an unwelcome entry. The images in this section provide a grainy effect, with a sharp contrast between darks and lights, embellished with geometric patterns. He states that his basis for using the motel’s physical décor was to inspect “the logic of it, the insensitivity of it.”

Window 13, 1977. Gelatin silver print.  Mary and Dan Solomon Collection, Los Angeles

Window 13, 1977. Gelatin silver print.

Mary and Dan Solomon Collection, Los Angeles

Bound Door 5, 1976. Gelatin silver print.  Mary and Dan Solomon Collection, Los Angeles

Bound Door 5, 1976. Gelatin silver print.

Mary and Dan Solomon Collection, Los Angeles

The Hollywood Suites introduces a unique portrayal of bondage using young women as visual representations and a unique perspective on the mundane motel rooms that so greatly interested Kahn.

Steve Kahn: The Hollywood Suites was published by Delmonico Books in 2018.

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