Karine Laval: Altered States

Bonni Benrubi Gallery
41 E. 57th Street 13th Floor
New York, NY 10022

April 18 – May 24, 2013

For her 4th solo exhibition at Bonni Benrubi Gallery, the Brooklyn-based French artist Karine Laval will present a selection of new photographs as well as a video installation that marks the gallery’s first foray into moving images. The title of the exhibition references different states of transformation such as physical transformation and distortion, altered states of consciousness and perception, mythological metamorphosis, but it also evinces the transformative power of the camera. Laval continues to explore the vagaries of subjective perception and challenges the way we see by combining performance and the mechanics of photography itself (light, perspective, chemistry and optics). She tests the limits of the photographic medium by using water as a distorting lens and choosing a stark color palette – the result of her signature chemical processing of the film – to generate images that oscillate between representation and abstraction and blur the boundary between photography and painting.

For a series of large-scale images of distorted human figures, the artist directed a professional dancer to perform underwater in a swimming pool, testing the body’s resistance in an unfamiliar element and under challenging conditions, thus evoking man’s struggle with nature and the uncertainty of the human experience. Performative aspects have long been part of Laval’s work, as evidenced in her Inferno video andPoolscapes series, as well her early Pool series, where spontaneous scenes of bathers appear to be composed by a silent choreographer once isolated within the frame of her camera. Together with another set of small and intimate photographs of split reflections that harken back to early 20th century avant-garde photography, these images of bodies caught in a transient state raise questions of essence and identity.

In a grid of nine photographs, the largest work in the exhibition, entitled Collisions, Laval continues her ongoing experiments with Mylar, begun in recent photographs, videos and a performance/video installation presented at NYCAMS for John Cage’s centennial in 2012. Laval utilized the reflective surface of the material for the distorting and shimmering qualities it shares with water, an element that has been central to her work. Here, the shiny surface of the Mylar becomes a kind of skin that mirrors the fluidity of the human flesh. Once plunged into water, the inanimate object starts to react to the pressure and chemicals and bend into distorted sculptural shapes as if by magic. The resulting compositions collide at an intersection between violence and sensuality, underlining their ambiguous nature for, like mirages, Laval’s images are shape-shifting and concentrated and ultimately defined by the interpretative faculties of the viewer.

Karine Laval was born in Paris (France) and has been living and working in New York since 1997. Her works have been widely exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in the United States and internationally at such venues as the Palm Springs Art Museum, the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art (USA), the Sorlandet Art Museum in Kristiansand (Norway), the Palais de Tokyo in Paris (France), and at several photo festivals throughout Europe and the US. Her video „Inferno” was presented at Centre Pompidou in Paris as part of the official selection of the ASVOFF International Film Festival in 2011. Laval was a finalist of France’s Villa Medicis Hors Les Murs and she is the recipient of the Peter S. Reed Foundation Grant. 

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