Anne Collier blurs the line between the photographer, photo subject and viewer
Photography is no truth-teller, and Anne Collier’s not the first artist to explore its slippery subjective-objective bait and switch. She has emerged, though, as one of its most attuned critics.
At the Art Gallery of Ontario, which is hosting the first career retrospective of the 45-year-old Los Angelesbased artist, 22 of Collier’s coolly heady images line the walls of the fourth floor galleries.
They’re recognizable, and not: There are stirring portraits of Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe, but shot from the pages of a book, its pages splayed flat and earmarked with Collier’s coloured stickies.
A keen collector and amalgamator, Collier’s practice of representing pop-cultural images from an obvious remove sits within the genre of appropriation, sure; but that’s not giv- ing quite enough credit. Collier’s pictures describe the tease a photo represents: of a distance, held up tantalizingly close, but unbridgeable nonetheless.
Removed by a further degree, Collier underscores the artifice of intimacy a photograph — especially of the famous — aims to be.
That the vast majority of her pictures are appropriated images of women should be no surprise.
Photography amplified the infamous male gaze exponentially, making the art-historical practice of objectification fast, cheap and out of control. This, ultimately, is Collier’s subject: the not-so-fine lines between the represented, the objectified and the unabashedly manipulative, and calling their bluff by making it her own. Anne Collier, organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, continues to Jan. 10.
Anne Collier, Folded Madonna Poster (Steven Meisel), 2007
Anne Collier, 8x10 (Jim), 2007. Taken at the site where Collier scattered the ashes of her parents, Lynda and Jim, she subverts a photograph’s nominal role as a preserver of memory and a stand-in for a person.