Yesterday: Jeffrey Vallance
Less compelling in Nine Lives were work by artists who chose to represent subcultures outside their own, but perhaps there are no Sámi painters of reindeer viscera or transgender photographers of note living in Los Angeles.Charlie White's Teen and Transgender Comparative Study #1
Charlie White’s photographic series Teen and Transgender Comparative Study #1 through #4 (2008) harkens to the gridded backgrounds of 19th century pseudoscientific photography of Eadweard Muybridge. The side-by-side, typological portrayals encourage the viewer to compare and contrast a teenage girl and transgender adult. In Teen and Transgender Comparative Study #3, is it possible to decipher the scar from a tracheal shave, an operation designed to reduce the prominence of the male Adam’s apple? White’s specimen-like depiction, which foregrounds his subjects’ pathologies, separates us from their humanity.
Significant differences exists between the life of a white, male photographer and university professor in his mid-30s and the experiences of his teen and transgender models. For one, both his subjects’ identities—teen and transgender—occupy a liminal space between child and adult, or between male and female. The burden of understanding White’s subjects is left to the limited cultural identifiers within the frame. But even a reading of those identifiers is thwarted. We may infer that a teen girl and a transgender woman are both attempting to advance to their own ideals of femininity, but what we see are the efforts of an unseen hairstylist, make-up artist, and photographer who work in concert to reinforce similarities and eliminate individual identity and difference.
In The Cyrilla Strothers Project (2004-6) (an earlier work not in the show), White presented an archive of 11,000 photographs created when he gave cameras to friends and family of the titular teenaged subject. The pretext and form of The Cyrilla Strothers Project more ably diffuses at least some of the objectification and layers of removal that distance the viewer (or the artist) from the teens depicted in White’s video and photographs in Nine Lives.
Video Still from Charlie White's American Minor
Tomorrow: Whiteness and Nostalgia