Exhibit | Cathleen Naundorf at Edwynn Houk Gallery, NY
L’ARCHE DE NOÉ XVIII, DIOR – HAUTE COUTURE SUMMER 2012, 2012, Chromogenic print from original polaroid, 24 x 20 inches (60 x 50 cm). © Cathleen Naundorf / Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York & Zürich
Born in Germany, Cathleen Naundorf began working as a photojournalist in the 1990s, documenting the Yanomami in Amazonia, the Mongols and Kazakhstanis in the Altai Mountains, and the shamans in Yakutia, Siberia. At the same time, she maintained a friendship with Horst P. Horst, one of the greatest fashion photographers of the twentieth century. Horst observed, “Fashion is an expression of the times. Elegance is something else again.”
It is here that the timeless exists, in the expression of life and art, and Horst’s love was unsurpassed. He revealed, “I like taking photographs, because I like life. And I like photographing people best of all, because most of all I love humanity.” It is this love that pervades everything that bears his name. Like her mentor, Naundorf brings reverence to the photograph. Edwynn Houk Gallery presents the first exhibition of Cathleen Naundorf’s photographs in New York, on view through February 27, 2016.
Included in the show are a selection of works from several of the artist’s series including Un rêve de mode and L’Arche de Noé. Each work is carefully constructed as a world of fantasy and imagination, layering creation on top of creation. Working primarily in large format Polaroid film, Naundorf embraces the saturated color and unique texture of the film that evoke a sense of nostalgia for a forgone age before digital processes eradicated the possibility of living with unexpected changes. Using her own development process, Naundorf manipulates the variations found in each photograph to further evoke a tactile sensation recalling the hand of the artist. The result is a sumptuous array of work that combines the luxury of medieval tapestries with the grandeur of fashion billboards for a new kind of old school glamour that captivates our memories.
After developing a keen interest in the hand-made arts she observed while photographing the native cultures of Mongolia, Siberia and the Amazon, Naundorf brought this love for construction to her fashion photographs. From the elaborate sets to the haute-couture designs of Dior, Elie Saab, Philip Treacy, and Valentino, as well as the artist’s own analog large-format camera, Naundorf pays homage to the antique and to the handmade, with a twenty-first century twist.
By elevating Polaroid to the medium from which the print is made, Naundorf abandons the old tradition of using Polaroids on shoots as part of the test series. Now, at a time when Polaroid film is dwindling, Naundorf’s photographs assert the inherent value of the medium. Liberated from their practical use, their quirky characteristics have the added value of offering the unexpected in what has become a highly manipulated medium. In Naundorf’s work we can embrace the pleasure of the film as it adds an ethereal touch to the photographs themselves, creating a sense of singularity of its very own.
The first exhibition of Cathleen Naundorf’s photographs is on view at Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York, now through February 27, 2016.
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.