Culture

Sensual on white sheets Douglas Kirkland’s photos of Marilyn Monroe

Yeah, we like those curves and forms, those sensual twists that fashion the human body into daedal organisms that can be reshaped as they are contorted in sundry ways to accommodate different positioning and project our numerous emotions. Yeah, we like to understand the shape of things because we are beings replete with much sensitivity to the aesthetics that surrounds us, whether it’s the complexity in the organization of petals on a flower or the elegant grace of a female body poised like a Michelangelo sculpture behind a translucent silk drape.
This intricacy of shape is captured in photographer Horst P. Horst’s Form show, presently at the Daniel Azoulay Gallery in the Design District. His black and white shots explore everything from the shapeliness of crisp autumn leaves to the curvature of the human body in diverse angles and position. Having done extensive portraiture and fashion photography with publications such as Vogue and Vanity Fair as well as advertising photos, Horst can embrace the essence of the form and enlighten the certain aspects that make the figures unique and remarkable.
While his photos balance well the diffusion of light and shadow, Horst meticulously chooses to emphasize lights and darks on specific parts of the form, i.e., he “paints” the shapes to his liking. The contour of his “Tulips” is well lit up by the sharp finish of the photo, but it is even more interesting to appreciate the shape by its distortion in the shadows. “Round the Clock” is a shot of a woman bending over-her ornamentally layered dress up in the air producing the effect of a flower in full bloom-and “Triangles,” a nude man on all fours, reveals an assortment of triangles molded by the body itself.
Also at the gallery is a photo series by Douglas Kirkland (who shot John Wayne and Coco Chanel among many others) entitled An Evening with Marilyn Monroe. The highlight here is a sequence of color photographs of this American sex icon on white sheets, as she smiles seductively and poses while Kirkland shoots her from a bird’s-eye view. She is apparently nude, but never exposes her body completely and teases the onlooker, who does feel intimately tied to her and inhibits an urge to jump into that bed.
The significance of these pictures though is seen in the way they shed light on the sheer sensuality of Marilyn Monroe-illumining her voluptuousness and aesthetic appeal without showing too much skin. The prints are heavily pixilated instead of having a polished finish and thus diminish the glamour that’s always been associated with this woman.
Form and An Evening with Marilyn Monroe are showing at the Daniel Azoulay Gallery, 3900 A NE First Ave., Miami, through March 15. Call 305-576-1977 for more info.

Omar Sommereyns can be reached at SOASIS@aol.com.

February 18, 2003

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