Jo Ann Callis | La otra sensualidad

“Descubrí que podría hacer fotos de las cosas que tenía dentro de mi cabeza, de cosas no tangibles, y que no dependía de mi capacidad de dibujar”. Pero ese tema, ya sea la sexualidad o la sensualidad, ha sido constante en todo su trabajo. Incluso cuando hace fotos de objetos los miro como si pudiera acariciarlos con los ojos. Jo Ann Callis explora la sexualidad jugando con la proximidad, los cuerpos desnudos y los objetos cotidianos; envuelve a sus modelos con tejidos y cuerdas, y las sitúa en escenarios comunes. Pero sin saber cómo ni por qué, el espectador se siente atraído y a la vez molesto; obligado a mirar de muy cerca una escena íntima e incómoda. Obligado y molesto porque los retratos de Callis tienen esa sordidez que atrae de forma involuntaria, como si buscásemos descifrar algún enigma oculto entre las pocas piezas que aparecen. Y nos empujan a cuestionarnos los límites y reflexionar sobre lo íntimo y lo privado, e incluso sobre nuestra propia sexualidad.

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En “Other Rooms” se recogen los trabajos de Callis de mediados de los años 70, tanto sus fotografías en color como en blanco y negro. Sus composiciones y sus colores pueden recordar a Guy Bourdin, pero aquí no hay nada que publicitar: la frivolidad de la moda queda sustituida por el erotismo puro.
Las facciones furtivas y ocultas por sombras, posturas o por la decisión directa de la fotógrafa de dejar las caras fuera de plano añaden un factor de misterio y provocación. Esa “decapitación”, explica Prose, “refuerza nuestra sensación de que estamos viendo abstracciones”, como si cada modelo fuese “un pecador desnudo o un ángel vestido de blanco escondido entre las hordas de los condenados o salvados en una pintura flamenca”.

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ENG: In the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Southern Californian photographer Jo Ann Callis made a name for herself as a pioneer of fabricated photography. Though less well known than some of her successors (Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, Gregory Crewdson), Callis was one of the first photographers to work extensively with constructed sets, arranging models and tactile objects in ambiguous, often unsettling tableaux. In 1981, her work was included in the Whitney Biennial, and has since been widely exhibited at MoMA, MoCA, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Getty. As suggested by her focus on the domestic sphere she’s best known for her dreamlike interiors and uncanny still lifes Callis’s trajectory as a photographer is a bit unusual. Born in Ohio in 1940, she was married with two children by the time she was 23. It wasn’t until her early 30s that she completed her undergraduate degree UCLA, where, under the instruction of the legendary photographer Robert Heinecken, she first learned to use a camera. She continued to study under Heinecken for next three years, who encouraged her to work with sets and props to create staged scenes. “I was trying to get out of my marriage and get a divorce, and the time was such that everyone was trying all kinds of experimentation,” Callis told the Cut. “I wanted to set things up, I wanted to make a world of my own.” Under Heinecken’s influence, Callis spent much of her time in grad school working on what she now calls her “fetish project.” The resulting photos an evocative collection of anonymous models in semi-erotic poses are her most sexually explicit imagery, and the subject of her latest book, Other Rooms.The photos, taken between 1974 and 1977, are some of Callis’s earliest work which she’s largely kept a secret until now. “I put them away for a very long time,” she explained. “I started working at CalArts in 1976, which was a very conceptually oriented school, so I thought these pictures didn’t fit what they might be looking for and I really needed the teaching job.” Even more recently, in 2009, when reviewing her oeuvre for a retrospective at the Getty, Callis kept the photos under wrap.

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Black Table Cloth, 1979

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