This past Wednesday I had the pleasure of meeting Leah Oates and Kari Soinio at the opening of Private Hero. Oates was thrilled to present her Finnish artist Kari Soinio’s first show at Station Independent Projects. The exhibition was received by a congenial crowd.
Private Hero is a body of photographic portraiture which studies preconceived notions of masculinity. Kari, who uses himself as the model, aims to subvert perceptions of male dominance, power and identity through his sexually ambiguous images. In certain photographs, it is difficult to determine whether the body being photographed is that of a man or a woman. Kari explained he does not view the two as mutually exclusive things; rather he aims to amalgamate our understandings of femininity and masculinity, not only in terms of corporeality, but psychologically and philosophically as well.
Largely influenced by French artists such as Jean-Léon Gérôme, Soinio plays off the dominance of the male body in traditional periods in art history, such as classical sculpture and Academic painting. In a way similar to Gérôme, Soinio entreats photographs with a strange way of looking at men, “to challenge the gaze”.
The photographs are slightly crippling; one can feel the awkwardness of the subject. Portraits void of any male aggrandizement, they are images indicative of the alienation experienced by Soinio in contemporary culture, eliciting the thematic undertone of masculine complacency which is so central to much of Soinio’s work. In a manner of transference, visitors may feel a response of discomfort when viewing the work, work that was created in response to that very feeling. Though the photographs may not be everyone’s cup of tea, they certainly are courageous.
Private Hero is one view at Station Independent Projects from November 20th through December 21st
Review and photos by Isabel Sullivan