The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

Still Lives
Pierre Gonnord
The Dream Goes Over the Time
Ed Barnas
Photo by Pierre Gonnord . Source: hastedkraeutler.com
Pierre Gonnord, "Sandro" 2011

When photographing people who live at the margins, many take the approach of a hunter, moving in quickly to grab an image with little or no participation by the subject. Others might research their subject more and photograph these people in situ, either to forward a social agenda or to preserve a record before they “disappear” (Lewis Hine’s slum dwellers and Edward Curtis’ Native Americans, respectively, come to mind). These approaches, while valid, can distance us from the people depicted and turn them into “exotic others.”

Another approach involves spending time with these individuals at the edge of society, developing a relationship with them and identifying our commonality while still managing to express their individuality visually. It is the approach adopted by Pierre Gonnord for his ongoing documentation of the “dark underbelly of globalization.” For over a decade he has created portraits of those who “flee from a globalized world from which they feel rejected…embarking on a Grand Tour as nomads, with no return ticket….” Based in Madrid, French-born Gonnord is known for his portraits of marginal individuals, including Gypsies, punks and immigrants. His first US exhibit at Hasted Kraeutler, “Relatos” (2011/12) featured a number of images of coal miners. The current exhibit, “The Dream Goes Over Time,” features more recent work done in Gypsy camps, taking its title from a verse in Lorca’s poem “The legend of Time,” with its mix of fragility and resilience.

Photo by Pierre Gonnord . Source: hastedkraeutler.com
Pierre Gonnord, "Anibal I" 2014

Inspired by El Greco and Goya, his portraits appear to be exist outside of time and often call to mind classic paintings (particularly those of Anibal I and Sandra), though the portrait of Maria, Joao e Issac seemed to reference a more contemporary source (Lange’s classic image of Florence Owens Thomson – “Migrant Mother”).

Photo by Pierre Gonnord . Source: hastedkraeutler.com
Pierre Gonnord, "Adela" 2012

The subjects look directly at the viewer, posed isolated against a plain dark brown background, simply lit from the side. The color palette is warm and muted. The clothing is simple but well worn; the only hint of exoticism is in the dark shawls worn by a few of the women pictured. In style and tone these photographs reminded me of David Zimmerman’s portraits of Tibetan refugees in northern India (“One Voice” exhibited at Sous les Etoiles in 2013). Both men present their subjects isolated in space and time yet thoroughly contemporary and present, engaging the viewer directly with their eyes. Both presented their portraits in larger than life prints – Gonnord’s digital chromogenic prints average around 57 x 44. And both work with groups outside the selfie culture of social networks.

Photo by Pierre Gonnord  . Source: hastedkraeutler.com
Pierre Gonnord , "Vengador" 2014

But Gonnord does not simply focus on the people. Of the seventeen portraits on display, five are of the animals that accompany them in their travels. Each has its own name and distinct personality. Of the horses Vendaval, Sorraia, and Vengador turn their heads to gaze back at the viewer over their rumps while a fourth, Ortigao shakes his head with its carefully braided mane, facing the viewer directly. And Jason, a ram with majestically spiraled horns, looks placidly off to the side.

Gonnord’s work strikes a good balance between a need to document those outside the mainstream and a respect for the individual. The exhibit had the most humanistic approach among the may visited that day in Chelsea.

Pierre Gonnord
The Dream Goes Over the Time


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Thursday, March 5 to
Saturday, April 25, 2015
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