There’s a certain kind of girl who, in her teenage years, tears pages from fashion magazines and sticks them on her bedroom walls as a way to project a desired identity. Collier Schorr, who was raised in suburban New Jersey in the early 1970s, was one such girl. Back then, she filled her room with images of models wearing tuxedo jackets and shoulder pads – later, such figures would inform the first work she exhibited at 303 Gallery in 1987, which consisted of Xeroxed copies of Calvin Klein and Guess ads pasted between pieces of Perspex. Schorr, who along with making art has shot ads for Brioni, Comme des Garçons and editorial spreads for Purple, among many other brands and publications, continues to combine high-fashion imagery and cultural critique in her practice.
For ‘8 Women’, her tenth solo exhibition at 303 Gallery, Schorr brought the bedroom wall to the white cube. The 14 photography-based works were created mainly from fashion commissions Schorr has made since the mid-1990s. Re-appropriated for the exhibition, the images depict women standing like Amazons on sentry duty around the walls of the gallery. Their stares are strong; their breasts are thrust forward. They harness the power of their own objectification via the gaze of the viewer and throw it back with the defiance of their poses. According to the gallery, the title of the exhibition was partly inspired by 8 Women, a 2002 film by French director François Ozon that starred a number of iconic French actresses including Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert and Virginie Ledoyen. The film was ostensibly a murder mystery, but ultimately a pastiche in which each of the actresses played homage to their individual filmographies. Similarly, Schorr’s exhibition was a pastiche of her past work – the subjects are models she has worked with in the past, friends and fellow artists, some of whom she photographed for personal projects, some for commissions. Picture for Women (2010–14), for instance, shows the Dutch actress Rie Rasmussen in a red bra and skirt, standing with one arm raised to clutch the top of a door frame – the strong stance Rasmussen, assumes in the image translates intention, but it was apparently taken on the fly between shots for another project. Camera Work (2013) shows a young model with kohl-rimmed eyes, naked from the waist up, with a headband covering her pulled-back hair. She was photographed by Schorr after a fashion shoot for which she wore a wig, and though in this image the wig is off, she still poses as if she’s on the clock, highlighting the performative dimension of standing in front of the camera. Art-historical references abound, adding further layers of meaning. In Where Are You Going? (2013), a nude woman with a shaved head, shaved pussy and chipped purple nail polish stands with her hands clasped above her head in a pose reminiscent of the Tahitian woman in Paul Gauguin’s 1897 painting, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Schorr’s figure is covered in indecipherable ink drawings that recall occult symbolism; like Gauguin’s ‘native’, she represents some sort of primitive, essential and unknowable ‘woman’. Auto-Portrait (2010–14) references the numerous portraits Egon Schiele drew of himself at the beginning of the 20th century. It features the only male in the exhibition. He stands naked with his arms by his side and his face – which bears a strong resemblance to the young Robert Mapplethorpe – is made-up. With the exception of his flaccid penis, which hangs from a crop of pubic hair like an appendage or a dildo, his body’s impossibly slender form is indistinguishable from those of many of the female models who surround him. Attempts to give texture to the images by disrupting their surfaces felt forced, as if Schorr was grasping to find further formal justifications for her work. In the Collage II (Marie) (2013) consists of two rolled-up photographs displayed on a pedestal like a sculpture; the viewer is asked to walk around them to get a sense of what they depict and, in doing so, finds little more than the same sort of beautiful naked women that inhabit much of the exhibition. N.K. (2013) consists of a commissioned ink sketch that Schorr made of Nicole Kidman for V Magazine; in the place where her neck meets her right shoulder, a sliver of a photograph is collaged, along with the phrase, written in pencil, ‘Art I Scene I Prelude’, a further hint that the viewer should see the works less as a static body and more like performance or theatre.