On ViewSlag Gallery
February 2–March 11, 2023
Ariane Lopez-Huici began photographing the human body in 1975. Most often her images preserve encounters with individuals at the margins of society engaged in a life dedicated to culture. They celebrate the movement of the body, and seek to challenge the norms of classical beauty. In Lopez-Huici's work, the body is full of life, dignified like a sculpture and immortalized, both exuding poetry, calm, poise, strength, and force.
A series of new work by the artist has taken a curious twist with paint and color. She alters small black and white gelatin silver prints by painting directly on them with minimal strokes of acrylic paint and oil stick, before digitally photographing and printing the enhanced image at an enlarged scale. What does paint do to these images before us? In 2006, Lopez-Huici completed a series of photos called Scratches where the Polaroid film has been tampered with through lines, scratches, curves, and scribbles, creating abstract imagery within the square of the unexposed film. Her earlier Self-Portraits and Venus of Manhattan in the 1990s also manifest a scribbling, blotching, and marking into the photograph, the former on her own figure and the latter on a more corpulent model (making reference to the Venus of Willendorf) as both appear and disappear within the dramatic and mysterious studio lighting.
Lopez-Huici often cites figurative painters as influences in her work, most notably Eugène Delacroix and Peter Paul Rubens as well as her engagement with the Modernist penchant for the ecstatic. In this selection of poses we see how the subject has transgressed the body into a realm of trance or ecstasy disconnecting from the physical world into that of the spirit as can be seen in Jean Rouch’s ethnographic films in Africa on Songhai rituals and practices. The only photograph offering her fierce eye contact with the viewer is Dalila 4, most others have the gaze turned inwards, into their body in action. The paint marks are themselves a form of trance for Lopez-Huici, who at first engages with her own body faced in photographing the model in her studio with the freedom of a handheld camera, but then finds ways to highlight or obscure the head or body in primal colors of red, yellow, and orange.
The gestures are quick, passionate, in a fury, and carved into the image. At times the color adds a certain power, notably that of the head of Dalila 7 (2011–2020) with one yellow sensual stripe strengthening her noble forehead, nose, and closed mouth in a self-assured stance. This in contrast with Dalila 14 (2011–2020) where the defacement of her eyes with a red oil stick suggests turmoil as we gaze at an open mouth—a scream or a roar.
The relationship of Lopez-Huici to her subjects takes us deeper as we experience through her work some of the excesses made possible by the human body, its flesh, its ecstasy, its joys, and its challenges. Today we are acknowledging more diverse beauties that hold power and influence within our society. Amidst the constant fighting for the humane, that’s where Lopez-Huici’s work has its place.