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Depicting the human body has been among the primary preoccupations and achievements of artists for millenni a. Drawing inspiration from historic precedents in painting\, sculpture\, photography and film history\, for t he past twenty years Samuel Bayer h as produced still photographs alongside his innumerable award-winning music videos\, film and commercials. Bay er has evolved an aesthetic of gritty rawness\, a now emblematic style that has typified his music videos sinc e his groundbreaking first with Nir vana in 1991. The culmination of his recent photography is a large-scale se ries of black and white photographi c nude portraits\, being exhibited for the first time at Ace Gallery Beverly Hills.

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A series of sixteen nud es\, shot in three sections with a large-format 4” x 5” camera in the studio against a simple white backdrop\, envision larger-than-life contemporary studies of young women\, tackling the time-immemorial subject of the n ude. They are accompanied by two di ptychs of faces in extreme close-up\, eyes open\, eyes closed\; the features and cool gaze of his subjects rev eal every freckle\, line and follicle. Face\; eyes\, hair - features become a landscape to traverse as our eye wanders human terrain. These are m odels and individuals Bayer has worked with and known over the past decade\, becoming living archetypes in the colossal scale of ancient goddesses looming above a viewer at over 14ft. As contemporary studies of the femal e form\, these women would not have existed in the mid-twentieth century prior to the sexual revolution of the 1960s when artists began to recons ider the body as a politicized terr ain and explored issues of gender\, identity\, and sexuality manifest in ph otographers such as Diane Arbus\, R obert Mapplethorpe\, Larry Clark\, Hannah Wilke\, Nan Goldin and Cynthia MacAdams.

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In Bayer’s new series\, we see an ongoing biological and sociological evolution. Posed frontally and exposed\, they might be perceived as vulnerable on a smaller scale\, however the straight gaze and the enlarged scale creates an intimation of a nearapproaching new race of super women quietly waiting in the wings. A viewer is surrounded by these unadorn ed figures\, provoking possible intimidation in their directness\, uncompromised by faux modesty. Women have c hanged\, transformed and advanced s ince Artemisia Gentileschi’s confrontation with the male gaze.

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Bayer doe s not objectify his models in a way that Herb Ritts “saw parts of the body’ s surface in precisionist terms\, o ften adding mud\, skin paint\, sand\, and other materials to sensually emphasize the follicles and pores of th e epidermis\,”1 verging on scopophilic fixation with the exaggeratedly buff gym-engineered body.

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Yves St. Laurent\, always attracted to the androgynous and strong woman and the firs t couturier to use black models in 1962 has said: “I always found my style through women. That’s what makes my vitality and strength: I lean on a woman’s body\, on the way she move s… the way she stands.”2 Sculptor Robert Graham has consistently used this agile\, frontally posed female form and in the mid 1980s created monumental sculptures of which. He produced a giant nude\, twice human size in 1 984. Helmut Newton photographed a p ortrait of Graham with his giant nude\; while Newton began his nude studies relatively late in career in 1980 saying “Women are much stronger tha n men – in every possible way. I truly believe that. I’m a big admirer of w omen.”3 As religious symbolism and reference has become irrelevant to contemporary consumer society\, the female form evokes millennia of pre-pat riarchal goddess worship\, the arch etype of Venus or Isis\, transcending religions. American photographer Cynthia MacAdams pioneered and defined the ‘goddess movement’ in Emergence the new woman on her own terms in photography from the 1970 and 1 980s – with
fiercely independe nt women role models – portraiture and nudes including Jane Fonda\, Kate Millett\, Gloria Steinem\, Laurie And erson\, and Patty Smith. In contrast to Helmut Newton’s fetishism\, the subject of gender in society was drama tically changing\; Bruce Weber was to evolve a new masculinity and homoeroticism in commercial photography. Newton and subsequently Bayer\, visua lize women as they are today\; wome n who take the lead and have presence\, who take pride in “the resplendence and vitality of their bodies\, bod ies over which they themselves have sole command”4\; the liberated woman full of health and vigor - fit\, capa ble and strong.

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Bayer’s women a re in no need of props\, backdrops\, adornment and decoration. Fashion becomes fast obsolete while the nude tr anscends time. Commercial and fashi on photography are intrinsically coercive\, propelling sales of magazines a nd products. As commissioned work i mposes restrictions\, the parameters of a creative eye with a progressive view are challenged in creating imag es of society and of the role that women play in it. Bayer’s nude portraits in this exhibition are not reliant on using the powers of seduction a nd the desires they awaken – the subliminal attraction of fashion and image -making. Unlike Newton\, Bayer’s nudes are devoid of glamorous trappings.

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Bayer’s intimidating\, larger tha n life women echo a theme which emerged since the late 1970s – of portraying emancipated women for the first t ime in history able to control thei r own sexuality – which had hitherto been inseparably bound up with motherhood. As the taboos of Judaeo-Christ ian morality collapsed\, a celebration of the human body has reconnected to the glorious nudes of antiquity. A n interplay of genres as nude photo graph can be fashion and/or art and vice versa became the norm of particularly West Coast photographers – embo died in Herb Ritts or specifically Robert Mapplethorpe’s first female body builder Lisa Lions. The new muscula r females contrast Bruce Weber’s pa ssive males\, seemingly available\, which in the early 80s raised controversy about sexual empowerment and wha t defined masculinity in the
l ate twentieth century. Quarter of a century later\, a new generation of wom en have a birth right of independen ce and self-determination unknown to previous generations\, to rebuke objectification. As Helmet Newton envisa ged in A World Without Men – jettis oning the sexist status quo\, uncompromising\; – is this the next evolution ary step for a new world order? Whi le various artists and writers chart collective cultural and evolutionary decline\, Bayer and other artists an d photographers give us an evolutio nary snap-shot of positive strength and evolution of the human race where < /span>strength and beauty can be found in self- confidence and self-determination\, regardless of ethnicity or background\, while beauty resides with eq ual potency in both genders\, and g ender itself is mutable. Here we might also see the marked cultural differe nce of American women’s grooming – gym-buff\, articulated muscularity and hairless bodies.

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As with Herb Rit ts\, Bayer’s commercials and music videos evidence the cross-over’s and cross-pollination intrinsic to LA cult ure at its most influential – hybridizing music world talent\, celebrity\, style\, body beautiful – aesthetic and image-making unique to LA.

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R eminiscent of Helmut Newton’s celebrated series Big Nudes and Sie Kommen (1981\, Naked a nd Dressed)\, the scale of each distinctive young woman defies potenti al objectification\; looking unequi vocally\, directly into the camera lens and by extension boldly confronting a viewer. There is little chance f or voyeurism. They are unified desp ite their differences\, in their hairless bodies – clearly stating their se x. A new generation of women\, asse rtively full-frontal posture in a stance undermining the traditional pose of the female nude in an averted gaz e (insinuating modesty yet aware of being object of a male gaze). Autonomous and independent\, they also stand in the unified solidarity of an Am azonian tribe\, or future superwomen\, aware of their potent presence and sure future. The Western world has m aintained the nude as a fetishistic subject beyond being an aesthetic object\, and since the 20th century\, ha s been increasingly commercialized in selling products and merchandise\, not to mention the underbelly of Los Angeles in its vulgar porn industry . In cultures across the world\, the body is both sacred\, ritualistic\, a container of spiritual energy and t he embodiment of divine creation\, linking humans to the Divine. Controversial\, female and male nude < span style="font-size: small\;">depictions in photography have provoked imp assioned discussion about sin\, sexuality\, cultural identity\, and canons of beauty\, especially when the med ium is photography\, with its inher ent accuracy and specificity\, as the Metropolitan Museum of Art articulated in the recent 2012 exhibition History of the Nude in Photography in Naked before the Camera.

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Drawing on both a history of sculptural nudes in the classical tradition\, and with his camera\, simultaneously contemporizing this traditi on\, Bayer’s work can be seen in the context within the history of portrait photographers. In the early 20th c entury\, Alfred Stieglitz and his g allery 291 Gallery introduced the medium of photography as fine art to the public\, with Eugène Atget as anoth er early role model. Soon Man Ray vastly expanded the possibilities of photography\, not merely with his comme rcial work as a portrait and fashio n photographer\, but with experimental techniques. With portraits of the cultural luminaries of his day from V irginia Woolf\, James Joyce\, Gertrude Stein\, to his close friends Picasso and Max Ernst\, Man Ray’s influenc e could be reflected in a sense\, i n the contemporary image-making of Samuel Bayer. Both cross-pollinating photography and film between artistic and commercial realms\, and in our contemporary media-saturated landscape\, Bayer’s widespread and profound in fluence in pop culture from directi ng breakthrough independent rock music videos.

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While the nude as subject is timeless\, does Bayer challenge stereotypes of beauty and obsession with youth? While fashion magazines an d Hollywood continue to perpetuate and typecast the young and thin\, perhaps with these representations of young women confident in their bodies (noticeably without silicon-implanted breasts) provides an antidote to the vulgarity of pornography and the ex plicit images that bombard us relen tlessly. From the plastic surgeried\, talentless bimbos of reality < span style="font-size: small\;">television to whom privacy and silence are alien\; to billboards for the paradoxically titled “gentleman’s clubs” to the back pages of the local newspape r sporting cheap prostitutes\; imag es of over-sexualized vixens have become so prevalent as to become < span style="font-size: small\;">the tawdry norm. This series of nudes by Sa muel Bayer addresses all these histories and aesthetics with a savvy and profound insight into image-making an d presents his alternative view.

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Samuel Bayer was born in upstate New York in 1965 and grew up in Syracuse\ , New York. He graduated from New Y ork City’s School of Visual Arts in 1987 with a degree in Fine Arts. At the age of 26\, Bayer set out to Los A ngeles to begin his career as a mus ic video director and he went on to direct over 200 music videos with the l ikes of The Rolling Stones\, Greend ay\, John Lee Hooker\, Marilyn Manson\, Metallica\, Smashing Pumpkins\, David Bowie\, Aerosmith\, and Lenny Kr avitz. Bayer won an Emmy for the 20 11 Super Bowl commercial for Chrysler\, Born of Fire featuring Eminem\; Bay er’s commercials are represented in the permanent film/video collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

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1 James Crump\, “Collecting History: Herb Ritt s’s Male Nudes\,” in Paul Martineau\, Herb
Ritts: L.A. St yle\, J. Paul Getty Museum\, Los Angeles / Getty Publications\, 2012\, p. 16
2 Yves Saint Laurent: His Life and Times\, film by Dav id Teboul\, Empire Pictures\, 2002
3 Helmut Newton interviewed by Caro l Squiers\, Helmut Newton Portraits\, Schirmer/Mosel\,
Munich \, 1993\, p. 11
4 Françoise Marquet\, Helmet Newton: Work\, T aschen\, 2000\, p. 13

DTEND:20130427 DTSTAMP:20140419T173549 DTSTART:20130303 GEO:34.0669204;-118.3981876 LOCATION:Ace Gallery- Beverly Hills\,9430 Wilshire Blvd. \nBeverly Hills\, CA 90212 SEQUENCE:0 SUMMARY:Diptychs & Triptychs\, Samuel Bayer UID:262555 END:VEVENT BEGIN:VEVENT DTEND:20130303T180000 DTSTAMP:20140419T173549 DTSTART:20130303T140000 GEO:34.0669204;-118.3981876 LOCATION:Ace Gallery- Beverly Hills\,9430 Wilshire Blvd. \nBeverly Hills\, CA 90212 SEQUENCE:0 SUMMARY:Diptychs & Triptychs\, Samuel Bayer UID:262556 END:VEVENT END:VCALENDAR