The three-part exhibition “Saul Leiter. David Lynch. Helmut Newton: Nudes” opend at the Helmut Newton Foundation on 30 November 2018. It marks the first time in the history of the Berlin institution that an exhibition will be dedicated exclusively to the genre of nude photography.
The naked body has been a theme in art since the famous Venus of Willendorf, which was crafted around 30,000 years ago by an unknown artist. Nudes also featured in the pioneering years of photography, the oldest of the new media, as early as 1839. Since then, a special combination of exhibitionism and voyeurism has evolved before the lens of thousands of photographers – more realistic at times, more staged at others. The three photographers presented in the exhibition count among the most empathetic and influential nude photographers of the late 20th century.
In the nudes by David Lynch (*1946) we encounter a visual atmosphere similar to that in Leiter’s works. Taken half a century later mostly in Lodz and Los Angeles, they were first published in book form by Fondation Cartier in Paris in 2017, under the title Nudes. These are abstract images of the body, in which details can fill the entire frame, mostly in black and white, a few in color, and only upon closer examination can we associate them with the human body. Lynch decided during the working process to shoot from unexpected perspectives and establish strong contrasts between light and shadow. He also chose a large presentation format, enabling most of his female models to appear larger than life; these 25 motifs were selected and printed exclusively and for the first time for this exhibition in Berlin. The images were created both parallel to and independently of Lynch’s cinematic work, which sometimes contains sexual allusions and actions. His photographic nudes, be they more observational or posed, are as enigmatic as his films. In viewing these images, we sense a tender, tentative exploration of the female body with the camera; such visions are likely only possible through the medium of photography. A sense of intimacy – or the illusion thereof – is achieved through extreme close-ups with an almost tactile physicality, even if only a bare thigh or arm is visible in the frame. In contrast to the women in Leiter’s photographs, Lynch’s nameless models are hired professionals, who take their poses in an indefinable pictorial space. Although one model can be seen lounging seductively on a sofa, here too, the surrounding interior is blurred and undefined, and her face obscured by a cloud of smoke.
On the occasion of the exhibition the publication Nudes by David Lynch (Fondation Cartier) will be available for purchase in the Walther König bookshop at the Helmut Newton Foundation.
December 1st, 2018 – May 19th, 2019
Helmut Newton Foundation, Jebensstraße 2, 10623 Berlin