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Indepth Arts News:

"Amy Alder Photographs Leonardo DiCaprio"
2001-04-11 until 2001-05-26
Photographer's Gallery
London, , UK

This special commission by young American artist Amy Adler involves an unusual collaboration with the Hollywood actor, Leonardo DiCaprio. Earlier this year, DiCaprio agreed to be photographed by the artist in an intimate, face-to-face, session at her home in London, and these images form the basis for a new series of unique, colour portraits.

Amy Adler's work meditates on the role of imagery in formulating both the identity of subjects, and desire or longing in the minds of viewers. Very often, as in the series Nervous Character(1999), she has been the subject of her own work but she does not conceive of it as self-portraiture - rather than seeing myself as the subject, I think I'm playing a part: sometimes I1m the lead, sometimes I'm not. At other times, she has been drawn to figures - film stars and musicians - whose public images proliferate endlessly through photographs, magazines and CDs and yet whose private identities remain inaccessible and elusive to us. This project with Leonardo DiCaprio is her most sustained examination of the imaging of celebrity to date.

Amy Adler has developed a distinctive method which involves wedging a drawing between two acts of photography. She starts with a photograph (in this case, her own, often, someone else's) makes a drawing of it, and then photographs her drawing. The drawing is then destroyed, and all that remains is a one-off, glossy photograph, with the drawing 'trapped' in its surface. In this melding of the two media, it is ambiguous whether we are looking at a photographed drawing or a 'drawn' photograph. Her images of Leonardo are visually very different to a codified or styled publicity shot or magazine portrait: their relaxed naturalism makes us question whether we are looking at a portrait of an ordinary, or an extraordinary, person. For Adler, drawing leads to a special intimacy with her subjects - the kind of psychological intimacy that compels a teenager, say, to sketch the face of her favourite pin-up. Yet, in her work itself, the sense of familiarity which emerges from the closeness of her encounter with Leonardo, is then denied again through the distancing, objectifying, effect of her final, glossy, photograph.

It is as if Adler - who bears an uncanny facial resemblance to some of her subjects - is continuously looking for something or someone who remains frustratingly elusive. In doing so, she creates subtle, unsettling images, which probe all the places where desire, identification and fantasy converge.

Amy Alder
Nervous Character, 1999

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