ARTISTS: Mel Erice & Jon Huck
RUN OF SHOW: March 29 – May 24, 2007
VENUE: Hedreen Gallery, Lee Center for the Arts
Seattle - Portraiture sets up expectations: we will see the sitter; we will learn something of their character. Intimate Human, the first exhibition of portrait photography at the Lee Center for the Arts, challenges these expectations and asks us to consider the criteria by which we assess ‘individuality.’ In two extensive portrait series, photographers Mel Erice and Jon Huck distill universally intimate details as signifiers of their subjects’ personalities.
In Erice's For Your Scrutiny, topless women and bottomless men hold chalkboards over their chests or crotches. Though the faces are cropped out of these black-and-white images, Erice’s photographs powerfully emphasize the individuality of the subject: on each chalkboard, the sitter has written her breast size, or his penis length. Our desire to read character in the chalked handwriting, along with Erice’s references to documentary photography, implicates us as viewers in complicated ways. Does a heavily chalked line indicate confidence? Have the subjects told the truth? What exactly are we staring at?
Huck also dares us to create narratives, and to discern persona through unconventional associations. In selections from Breakfast (a series that in its entirety comprises over 100 images), Huck juxtaposes traditional ‘head shots’ with portraits of his subjects’ breakfasts. Some pairings are visually playful – a baldhead echoed by boiled eggs, for example; others suggest cultural or gendered stereotypes, as the waiflike woman with two cups of black coffee.
Although each model in Intimate Human is vivid and unique, each is also part of a series, whose formal parameters are repeated across the gallery’s space. This iteration makes commonality the exhibition’s subtext: differences become ordinary, constant, and intimately human.