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 Amy Wet, 1992

Christina with Gun,

Erin with Candle,

Lung on the Road,

Anna with Cigarette,

Linda on Ball, 1994

richard kern
a portfolio

by Carlo McCormick

Best known as an underground filmmaker 
infamous for his confrontational cinematic
transgressions of the Eighties, Richard
Kern has shifted his modus operandi
during this decade from the movies to
photography. Including a series of stark,
haunting black and whites, some of which
are film stills, the current exhibition of
Kern's work at Feature traces his evolution
as a photographer from narrative and
voyeuristic to obsessive and fantasy driven.
Working along the aesthetic boundaries of
taboo, his photographs continue those
aspects of his film-making in which the
identity of the players inform the image,
which in turn functions as a kind of
evidence or document of a process.
Whereas his films involved an array of
artists, musicians and socially marginal
characters including Karen Finley, David
Wojnarowicz, Lydia Lunch, Foetus and
Lung Leg, the subject of his photographs is
a cast of mostly female models. Here the
work is as much about the personalities of
those models as it is about the dynamic
fantasy staged across the private space of
the studio as public gesture--a psychosexual
drama in which the pictorial vernacular of
b-movies, exploitation, porn and punk directs
the discourse of desire. In the color work
where naked women, props and sets are laced
with super-saturated hues by shrill
candy-colored lighting, what is explicit is
attitude more than anatomy. Consistently,
what is rude is the in your face quality of
the expressions and, in classic pin-up
tradition, much is withheld. For Kern, the
art of transgression is not so much an act
of violation as a process of trying to
show the unseeable and enigmatic. The
theater is that of transformation, a
play of innocence, violence, seduction and
submission in which the ultimate story is
one of mystery and ambivalence. A
collection of this material has been
recently published in Richard Kern's New
York Girls
(Purr Books), providing a
perfect picture album of his prolific

Feature 76 Greene St., New York
(Through March 30)