Vikky Alexander in AnOther Magazine

Rewriting the Language of Fashion Photography

Blue Obsession, 1983-2015© Vikky Alexander, courtesy of Cooper Cole Gallery

Blue Obsession, 1983-2015© Vikky Alexander, courtesy of Cooper Cole Gallery

Text by Isabella Smith
Who? Canadian artist Vikky Alexander came of age artistically in the 1980s New York of Richard Prince, Barbara Kruger, and Sherrie Levine. She was the youngest and least recognised of this famous group, and used conceptual photography to demystify and understand visual codes. Like her more established peers, her strategy was one of visual appropriation, manipulation, and re-contextualisation: she re-photographed and manipulated generic images of female beauty taken from European fashion editorials, then re-presented fashion’s fantastical yet familiar images in a high art context. Where many artists have tried to shatter consumerist fantasies by offering explicitly critical alternatives, Alexander took visions of capitalist escapism— and amplified their effects to the max.

The Four Seasons, 1980© Vikky Alexander, courtesy of Cooper Cole Gallery

The Four Seasons, 1980© Vikky Alexander, courtesy of Cooper Cole Gallery

What? Alexander’s work recalls French theorist Roland Barthes’ dictum on the languages of visual culture: “a code cannot be destroyed, only ‘played off.’” By foregrounding the fashion photograph’s role as a vehicle conveying notions of physical acceptability, Alexander encourages viewers to become aware of ideological mechanisms at play. Alexander’s aim when making these works was to “look at myself looking at other women.” She is speaking both literally and metaphorically; her appropriated images are mounted on mirror-like black surfaces, so through a process of visual superimposition, the idealised image and the viewer gazing at it become, in a sense, one. Alexander is interested in the inevitable comparison that ensues from this collaboraion. “I don’t want to speak for all women, but I think many of us have a love/hate relationship with fashion," she states, "You can try, but you will never attain the idealised glamour of an editorial. There’s an ambivalent push-pull effect; one knows the unattainability of media images, but desire can make you blind to reality."

St Sebastian, 1982© Vikky Alexander, courtesy of Cooper Cole Gallery

St Sebastian, 1982© Vikky Alexander, courtesy of Cooper Cole Gallery

Working in art history-inspired diptych and triptych formats in this series was Alexander’s attempt to “give something fleeting and changeable, fashion, a longer lifespan of relevance.” St Sebastian (1983) alludes to ideas of physical martyrdom, connected to the pursuit of perfection. A swimsuit model, originally photographed lying down, is placed upright as if bound (Sebastian was shot through with arrows while tied to a stake). A masculine religious and historical trope becomes a secular, female, and contemporary narrative. Another work, Pietà (1981), in which a man watches over a reclining female model, reverses the roles of the Virgin Mary mourning the dead Christ in Michelangelo’s iconic sculpture. In this sense, Alexander’s women become less passive objects awaiting visual consumption in the space of an editorial, and more protagonists, existing in a rich historical lineage.

Continue reading http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/8717/rewriting-the-language-of-fashion-photography

Vikky Alexander at Cooper Cole in Toronto

 

Vikky Alexander
The Temptation of Saint Anthony
May 13 – June 18, 2016

Opening Reception: Friday May 13, 2016 / 6 – 8pm.

COOPER COLE is pleased to present a solo exhibition from Vikky Alexander.

This exhibition reintroduces a selection of photographic works that were completed when Alexander was living in New York in the early nineteen eighties. Moving there from Canada, she became the youngest member of a group of artists that included Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine and Richard Prince, who were using photography to demystify codes and systems of representation through appropriation and quotation.

Drawing upon the editorial pages of fashion magazines, Alexander's primary subject matter consists of generic images of women that are conventionally thought of as beautiful by a patriarchal society. Through a system of cropping, rephotographing, enlarging, repositioning and reorganizing the images, Alexander aims to decontextualize these advertisements in a way to skew the viewer's perception of their original intent. These depictions of beauty and grace, along with the artists use of repetition within the formal convention of a rigid minimalist grid, challenge not only the commodification of female imagery in the mass media and the artifice involved in the world of fashion, but also questioning the true meaning of beauty, uniqueness, and individuality.

Vikky Alexander (b. 1959, Victoria, Canada) is a graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. She is known for her large scale photo-mural installations and multimedia works that combine photography with sculptural objects. These works foreground a strong interest in the history of architecture, the fields of design and fashion supported by the production of drawing and collage. Her early work informed the movement of Appropriation Art and she is aligned with the Vancouver School. Having exhibited professionally since 1981, Alexander has shown in venues such as The New Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, DIA Art Foundation, New York; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, USA; Kunsthalle Bern, Bern, Switzerland; Vancouver Art Gallery, Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada; Barbican Art Gallery, London, UK; Yokohama Civic Art Gallery, Yokohama, Japan; Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Tiawan; amongst others. Her works can be found in the collections of the the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, International Center of Photography, New York City, USA; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada; and the Deste Foundation, Athens, Greece. Since 1992 Alexander has been professor of photography in the Visual Arts Department at the University of Victoria in Canada. Alexander currently lives and works between Vancouver and Montreal, Canada. 

Vikky Alexander
The Temptation of Saint Anthony
May 13 – June 18, 2016

COOPER COLE
1134 Dupont St.
Toronto, Ontario M6H2A2
Canada

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000