In this series, Lipps sources iconic silhouettes from Richard Avedon’s 1990s campaign for Gianni Versace to reanimate the 1955 catalogue from Edward Steichen’s The Family of Man exhibition at MoMA. This enduring publication has sold over 4 million copies and proposes a universal human identity and a shared common narrative from creation to death. While receiving accolades for its innovative design and ambitious curatorial premise, the exhibition was met with heavy criticism for papering over problems of race and class and presenting a United States-centric view of the world.
Employing his signature cut outs, sculptural devices, and dramatic stagings, Lipps transforms the printed publication into theatrical tableaux. Studio lighting combines portrait and product photographic techniques to illuminate dynamically posed bodies, lending a film noir aura to the artist’s surreal fashion photoshoot. By accessing the powerful allure of Avedon’s silhouettes and reimagining the appropriated content of their interior photographs, The Body Wants to Live highlights the wealth and racial disparities that are so relevant today.
“Criticality is itself a shroud of sorts that reduces the photograph to another binary condition of being either deconstructive or complicit. We cannot say of Lipps’s work that, as is often remarked of Martha Rosler’s political photomontages, the spectral images of the “real” world haunt the pristine, glossy pages of Better Homes and Gardens and Vogue and the never-out-of-print exhibition catalogue for “The Family of Man,” as if we need the pasticheur to tell us that war reportage and Versace and Avedon and porn and racist curatorial strategies exist on the same plane. We know this because we live in that coextensive state, and, as with Rosler and Barbara Kruger, for that matter, the power of Lipps’s work lies not in the easy condemnation of a juxtaposition, but rather in the uncomfortable and erotic space of repulsion and guilt admixed with love.”
-William J. Simmons from his essay Matt Lipps: Tremulous Wounds. To read the essay in its entirety please click here.
Matt Lipps (b. 1975) received his MFA from University of California, Irvine in 2004. His work is in the collection of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Saatchi Collection, The Pilara Foundation Collection/Pier 24, San Francisco, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson. He lives and works in Los Angeles.