With a medusa-like magic, British artist Chloe Rosser’s photographic gaze transforms human flesh into sculpture. Rosser, who takes a page from classical nudes in poise and balance, otherwise departs from idealized form for altogether new, distorted proportions. In her first solo exhibition in the United Sates, on view at Elizabeth Houston Gallery from February 12 to March 28 and then at Paris Photo New York from April 1-5, she brings together seven photographs from her most recent body of work.
A digital photographer who eschews Photoshop, Rosser captures the uncanny in the ordinary through composition alone. In Function, her images document the muscle tension and corporeal strain of strange performances enacted for the camera. Photographing bodies whose heads and hands, necks and limbs, are obscured through tricks of contortion and lens angle, Rosser reveals a new take on the most familiar of fleshy terrains. The sculptural nudes she choreographs into still lifes become unrecognizable. Function follows the close interactions of bodily forms that are both intimate and anonymous, vulnerable and impervious.
That is the paradox that propels Rosser’s series beyond portraiture. Her models are of every skin tone, gender, and body type, spanning from 20 to 70 years of age. Photographed, headless and handless, in domestic spaces that are stripped of all furnishings and evidence of habitation, they shed all traces of identity. “Imperfections” remain—scars, stretch marks, hair, even scuffs on walls. Like John Coplans’ tender photographic investigations of his own aging body, there is an immediacy and intimacy in Rosser’s images. These skins and bones are lived in, and yet of ambiguous ownership. They have surpassed the boundaries of identification, becoming gender fluid and androgynous in appearance.
Rosser’s subjects turn into living, breathing statues of themselves before our eyes. The anonymity of their bodies is such that their shapes recall Edward Weston’s peppers and shells. Their uncanniness mimics the unsettling waxen works of Berlinde de Bruyckere. While Rosser’s models lean into each other, depending on one another for trust and support in their delicate interactions, they are at once invulnerable through their utter lack of individuality. We recognize in Rosser’s images a universal human, and no one in particular, ourselves and everyone else.
The London-based artist brings these contradictions to the fore, playing in their interstices to unveil the human figure as it has not been seen before. In pared down compositions with clean lines, Rosser embodies the wisdom of James Joyce in tangible form: “In the particular is contained the universal.”
– Robyn Day