Friday, August 16, 2013

Perfect Specimens: Photo Exhibition by Mark Kessell, Last Rites Gallery, NYC

I just found out about "Perfect Specimens," an interesting looking exhibition featuring work by one of our favorite Observatory presenters Mark Kessell. The opening reception is free and open to the public and will take place tomorrow night--August 17th--from 7-11 PM, at Last Rites Gallery in New York City; the exhibition will be on view through September 21st. Full details follow; all images ©Mark Kessell; more details below:
Perfect Specimen: Photos by Mark Kessell
August 17-September 21
Last Rites Gallery
Hours: Tues-Fri 2-9pm, Sat 2-9pm, Sun 2-6pm
Phone: 212.529.0666
Location: 511 W. 33rd Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues (3 blocks from Penn Station), 3rd floor, New York, NY 10001
Last Rites Gallery presents Perfect Specimens, a solo exhibition by New York photographer and artist Mark Kessell. For Kessell, art is truly a matter of life and death. Kessell, who trained as a physician, has spent the last two decades interrogating our existence through works that focus closely on the human life cycle, a universal yet intensely personal issue. Perfect Specimens explores the fundamental processes of human becoming and unbecoming, documenting what he describes as a species portrait, a map of our existence from the first stirring of life to the final phase of post-mortem decay.

These eleven works, images of the not-quite-born and the not-entirely-dead, drawn from a total of thirty-nine in the series, represent specific moments in the cycle. Initially created as daguerreotypes - a historical photographic process known as much for its potentially lethal toxicity as for its weirdly reflective surface - these works now appear as large-scale prints that allow viewers to delve deeply into both the subject and themselves.

Kessell poses a simple question: "When does being human begin and end?" As the fetuses and dying faces of Perfect Specimens illustrate, the answer is elusive. For many, the issues are moral and ethical, but this artist's approach is purely analytical.

Despite its capacity to provoke complex and sometimes disturbing emotions, Perfect Specimens is not intended to shock. Instead, its forthright depiction of the human life cycle allows space for personal reflection, an acute awareness of a shared experience. It is a chronicle of the finite nature of life.

At times, Kessell has shown us that horror, from a certain dark perspective, can be a form of entertainment - we see this, for example, in his movie-poster image for Eli Roth's Hostel - but Perfect Specimens offers no such escape. In this artist's uncomfortable perception, the human animal lives its life without drama and without significance. We come. We go. We leave barely a trace.

From our tenuous beginning to our irrevocable end, Mark Kessell's lyrical but clear-eyed gaze shows us the triumphs and horrors of being human. He brings grace and beauty to the complex questions of our existence.

Watch Mark Kessell's interview on YouTube here.

About the Artist
Originally trained as a medical doctor, Mark Kessell has been a professional photographer since graduating from the School of Visual Arts in 2000. After initially working as a daguerreotype artist, his practice has expanded to include installation, animation and sound as well as photography. His work focuses on the intersections between art, science and technology, with a particular emphasis on the construction of human identity. His works have been featured in a range of newspapers and magazines, and have served as illustrations for movie posters. He has been featured in the documentary feature film "Artists and Alchemists," as well as in the New York Times. His works are held in major collections worldwide including Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Museum of Fine Art Houston, the International Center for Photography and George Eastman House.
You can find out more by clicking here.

All images by Mark Kessell Images, top to bottom:
  1. The Residue Of Vision
  2. Continuing To Act
  3. The New New

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