… Beat Streuli’s large-scale, photographic transparencies in the windows featured individuals recorded unawares on the streets of some of the world’s biggest and most renowned cities. In each case, the person loomed from a surrounding crowd, and he or she was captured in a moment of routine motion, like striding down a sidewalk or crossing a street. Expressions were important, as was posture, and both suggested an unusual combination of public confidence and private doubts, contemplation, bewilderment, and longing. While these images suggested seductive advertisements (something many of Streuli’s works likewise do) they were simultaneously spare and voluptuous, and they had an exquisite beauty, which quite frankly seemed more painterly than photographic—a Renaissance absorption with physique, musculature, and posture; with fabrics and clothing; with complex expressions; with sunlight and shadow; and especially with the relations between foreground and background. Also like many of Streuli’s works, these images had an undercurrent of desire shading into an eroticism that wasn’t overt but was still palpably there: the “body electric”, as Walt Whitman once memorably put it, but now decked out in street fashions, brand names, and urban accessories. Still, the more one spent time with these works, the more one also recognized all that nagging half-loneliness, partial sadness, and undefined wariness, which in a post-9/11 world seems awfully close to the bone (and similar works by Streuli, made during the 1990’s, now seem quite prophetic.) Ultimately, Streuli’s outsized images amounted to an extraordinary conflation of public and private life; mass culture and beleaguered individuality; surging activity and solitude, alienation, or vulnerability.
The photographic transparencies in the windows were taken in Fort-de-France, capitol of Martinique. Inside the gallery, Beat Streuli shows 6 smaller photographs, which were taken on Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles.