Curated by Rebecca Soderholm
March 27 – April 24, 2013
Opening Reception: April 5, 2013, 5:30-7:30pm
The Korn Gallery at Drew University presents “Female Bodybuilders” an exhibition of large-scale photographs by Martin Schoeller. Best known for his close up portraits of well-known faces in the pages of publications such as The New Yorker, Schoeller has turned his intense vision to women who compete in professional bodybuilding competitions.
Schoeller’s photographs describe a visual dichotomy that makes us question our own expectations of gender, as female bodybuilders seem to be at once an idealization of both the feminine and masculine form. The torsos in Schoeller’s portraits call to mind the sketches of powerful physiques found in the notebooks of middle school-aged boys, with muscles that are uncontained by the photographic frame. Yet the faces of the women whose minds, dreams and dedication created these muscles, seem to sit on top of their bodies, looking back at us as if ready for the prom, with colorful eye shadow, lipstick, rhinestones, and the gaze of womanly confidence.
While it’s hard to imagine that the women in Schoeller’s “Female Bodybuilders” photographs could possibly go unnoticed, the culture is barely known outside of the sport. Many of the 63 subjects in Schoeller’s monograph, Female Bodybuilders (Pond Press, 2008) work day jobs and raise children while keeping up intense training regimes, and these subtleties of life experience seem to be also present in their faces. Schoeller’s taxonomic approach, inspired by August Sander and Bernd and Hilla Becher, shows us the facts in front of his camera with minimal suggestion of judgment. The viewer then is left face to face with the monumental scale of the work (the prints measure 90” high), and therefore, with the women themselves, even larger than life. In all of this complexity, the questions raised seem to turn back to us. As Schoeller notes in the conclusion of the Female Bodybuilders, “if a subject is proud of the way she looks, whose discomfort are you feeling?”
Born in 1968, Martin Schoeller grew up in Germany and currently lives and works in New York. His photographs have appeared in National Geographic, TIME, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, among other publications. Schoeller joined Richard Avedon as a contributing photographer at The New Yorker in 1999, where he continues to produce award-winning editorial portraits. His 2005 monograph Close Up, published by teNeues, defined his unique style of portraiture while democratizing the faces of the famous and the unknown with the same precision of view. His most recent monograph, Identical: Portraits of Twins also by teNeues, was published in 2012. His work has been shown in multiple international solo exhibitions, and Female Bodybuilders was previously exhibited at Hasted Hunt Gallery in New York in 2010 and Ace Gallery in Beverly Hills in 2008. He has won numerous awards, including TIME Magazine’s “Top 10 Photos of the Year” in 2012. Schoeller is represented in New York by Hasted Kraeutler Gallery.