A photography show goes Around the Body | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

A photography show goes Around the Body 

These images interpret the show's title by literally obscuring or absenting the body itself

click to enlarge Brenda Roger's "Irrational Attire No. 32A"
  • Brenda Roger's "Irrational Attire No. 32A"

 Around the Body is a provocative title for a collection of photographs. Presented at be2, this exhibition of ink-jet prints by Rebekah Alviani and Brenda Roger lives up to its name by delivering works rich in enticement and compelling with intrigue, though not exactly in the way one might imagine.

The uniformly sized baker's dozen of prints curated by Vicky A. Clark are all rendered in crisp black-and-white and hung inside be2, a small and colorless offshoot of Borelli-Edwards Galleries. (It's a plain gray room behind a garage door inside the same building that houses the main gallery.) These images interpret the show's title by literally obscuring or absenting the body itself, examining what surrounds it or turning it inside out. 

Alviani's works center on what is found inside the body. A nude woman, not immediately discernible as such in shadow and darkness, curls in to herself, head down, back curved, with a vertebral column resting upon her skin — and directly above the one resting inside of it. Resembling a wildflower, insect or sea creature, this replica of a spine (presumably a replica, though it's possible Alviani had a genuine human skeleton on hand) balances comfortably and autonomously, its own entity independent of the form it's usually carried inside. 

Roger, by contrast, turns her lens on that which covers the body. In her Irrational Attire series, vintage lingerie is captured in close-up, glimpses of meticulously pressed pleats, tiny embroidered flowers, delicate snippets of laces, bits of shaped metal as fastener and hook. Not depicted worn, stored or displayed, these are instead presented in a vacuum, a stark black space the only backdrop, the off-center snaps and blinks of the camera giving the inanimate a bristling vitality.

The absence of context forces us to manufacture our own, and the blanks Roger leaves for us to fill in scream in their silence. These bits and pieces of apparel designed for intimacy, floating in nothingness apart from their wearer, hint at the circumstances of their removal. At times, the scraps of fabric delicately drifting at the corner of a frame convey a soft gentleness. At another, the suspension of a single, twisted strap suspended in mid-air isolation engenders a strong sense of violence that's disquieting. 

This small, contained show packs a big wallop.



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