Ira Bordo’s reticent beauty on view in Moscow
Remember what photographs looked like without the thick blanket of filters, saturation tools and a million effects that “infected” images like an alien virus? Remember what people’s skin looked like in those photographs? It seems the emergence of photo apps, especially those, offering to transform your simple quiet shots into acidic, over-processed stains, produced acute color exhaustion. There is hardly any honestly in these images – it’s lost under a thousand layers of fake emotions imposed by these filters.
Fashion then feeds us a regiment of airbrushed, perfect bodes, faces, lips, eyelashes and pore-free skin. Their cheeks are perfect – their eyes are empty. So it was a welcome change to see the current photography exhibition at Pobeda Gallery in Moscow.
Ira Bordo’s show called “No Rush” startled me with its honesty, its raw, open nakedness. Nakedness in the sense of organic, direct openness and pure confidence. Looking at her photographs I felt like I was looking at the very essence of human innocence.
In fact, as I looked at the images I recalled my recent trip to Arizona. Expecting to see rich coral and red hues dominating the landscape I was disappointed to find myself amid what looked like a vast field of celadon-gray. It took three full days for this New Yorker’s eyes to start distinguishing shades of green, yellow, black, brown, gray, blue and coral in what looked like a monochromatic fill of color. I felt the same sense of unraveling colors looking at Bordo’s work. Her photographs at first read as if washed in a coat of taupe and flesh. The brain, so used and conditioned to react to brash bright colors takes time to slow down and adjust to her palette. All the while her subjects appear to patiently wait for us to shift gears and address them with our undivided attention. It’s as if they are saying: “I’ll wait, while you prepare yourself to enter my world…”
In all of the portraits Ms. Bordo is most successful at slowing time to her own pace. That time is not now. That time is a gentle and fluid convergence of Vermeer’s past and our future, and it’s frozen in the contemplative, somehow absent gaze of her personages. Even when they are turned away from the viewer, either partially, or entirely, you can still hear the soft whispers of their thoughts.
The artist’s compositions clearly reference the late Italian Renaissance and the imagery of Northern Baroque portraiture. The posture, the proportions, the gaze – all a quiet nod to the Old Masters. But in Bordo’s compositions the luminescent silk turbans, these hives of soft textiles, rich and dramatic as they are, recede to the secondary plane, allowing the subject’s own features to take center stage. It’s astounding how rich her calm and reticent palette really is. Look closer and you’ll discover thousands of shades revealed in the curvature of a shoulder, of the neck, in the untouched beauty marks and freckles. You stand there gliding over every inch of the photograph as if you were studying your lover’s body.
My favorite work in the series is titled “Ekaterina” (left). Fragile, with a hint of melancholy. the warm, organic palette is punctuated only by Ekaterina’s still indigo eyes. Her slightly slouched frame draws you in to try and guess her thoughts, but her bare torso, her vulnerability stop you from prying too deeply into her private world. You find yourself feeling like an intruder and retreat, allowing her to swim in her thoughts alone, undisturbed.
So, turn off the music, put away your phones and wander through the stories Ira Bordo composed. Take your time. No rush…
Exhibition is on view at Pobeda Gallery September 21 – October 30, 2012.
Images from the exhibition © Ira Bordo 2012, provided courtesy of Pobeda Gallery, Moscow and are used with the expressed permission of the artist. This article © galleryIntell