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DAVID COHEN every Friday at artcritical.com

February 23, 2001

Nice Photos of Naughty Bohemians

 

 

                                          

Carter Ratcliff                                                                                Charles Hancock Rux

(Art Critic/Poet)                                                                             (Poet/Writer/Performer)                

 

 

“Bad Behavior”, a riveting collection of photo portraits, exploits a single, singular, and open-ended idea to very good effect.  Photographer Bill Hayward forces each of his ninety two sitters to make the image, not just to be in it.   Literally.

 

A standard prop in any professional photography studio is a pristine roll of white paper, a neutral backdrop that floats subjects in primly neutral non-space.  But chez Hayward the tabula rasa raises hell.  Each sitter is given a pot of paint or a marker pen or whatever he or she wants or needs (glue, scissors, a bag of feathers in one case!) to get creative.  Forget subtleties of composed expression: here it is wayward individualism that holds sway in an extraordinary and inspiring array of antics.  Whether it is writing on the wall, dribbling on the floor, or chopping the page up into a dress, as poet Timothy Liu chooses to do with hilarious effect, the “sitter” invariably ends up acting a charade or jumping with joy or crouching shell-shocked by their own confessional outpourings.  Pose keeps pace with gesture. 

 

Hayward himself is never so caught up in the high jinks of which he is ringmaster to fail to crack the whip at the right moment.  Technically, these photos are “on the money” every time.   There’s a high batting average in a sport where one would expect a lot of strike outs, these are “all-over” portraits: not Me and something I just did, but Me Me Me!

 

 

                             

 

Al Franken (Comedian)                                                                         Leon Golub (Artist)

 

 

Forget all the clichés about the eyes being the window of the soul, or you are what you wear.  Hayward has devised a means to finger-print the imagination, with forensic exactitude.  And of course, it is as much the graphology as the sentiment which gives the subject away.

 

Robert LaFosse lends new meaning to the term “body paint”.  “When Robby came to the studio he wanted me to know at once that he wasn’t going to write anything and that the body was his medium, not words”, Bill Hayward recounts.  So, stripping off he started to dance (a rain dance by the look of it) in which his own body became the canvas for an all-over drip painting, an action painting in every sense. 

 

 

Laurie Kanyok (Dancer/Choreographer)

 

Hayward’s sitters are creative people: poets, painters, dancers, actors, comedians.  Some adopt stances true to their vocations; others surprise us with visual or performative acumen beyond the call of duty of their métier.  True to form, the dancers, pace LaFosse, lead the way in breaking down the barrier between figure and ground, not merely making their bodies the support but

melding themselves to the surroundings.  Laurie Kanyok

splays herself as if giving birth to an orgiastic explosion of swirl and spatter, finishing her composition with a sweeping arch painted with her feet, while the Taino Indian actor/dancer/musician Nixiwei paints himself with traditional body markings and poses emerging out of primal chaos of drip and stain.  Together they would turn out a great production of The Rite of Spring. 

 

                                    

 

David Shapiro (Poet)                                                                             Joanne Baldinger (Painter)

 

 

 

It is more personality type than profession, however, which seems to determine whether the subject uses the drawing as extension or shield.  Funnily enough, literal shielding, even to the extent of obscuring the face, which occurs with surprising frequency in these pages, actually serves the extroverts better than the introverts.  (I know very few of these sitters, by the way, personally or even by reputation, so my comment in based entirely on the photographic evidence.)  To give an example, David Shapiro – the well-known poet - stands behind a punctured sheet so that only his mouth, nose and one eye are extracted from the darkness; a poem in a faintly stylized script, which seems nonchalantly to follow the tear of this aperture, reads “Could it be you know I’m still living- leashed to the hateful sky?”  Despite the appearance of preciousness, withdrawal, feyness even, it seems pretty obvious that this is poet unimpeded in self-projection.  Others, in contrast, though depicted in full, seem to stand back, once they have written or drawn their stuff.  Their body language says, Do you really still need me here?  Haven’t I said it all already? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jessica Redel (Dancer/Choreographer)

 

 

 

Robert LaFosse (Dancer/Choreographer)

 

This is a refreshing, offbeat, artful affirmation of the creative spirit.  I really like the fact that, although there are some “stars” here this is not the line up of usual suspects but a Family of Man cross-section of New York Bohemia.  In his preface, Bill Hayward puts it neatly: “What mattered to me was not their status but their down-in-the-trenches commitment to art”.  And later: “These days, when I ride the subway between my home and studio, I often want to invite all my co-riders back to the studio with me to make a picture.  Clearly, artists aren’t the only people with a little truth inside to share.  It is just where I began.”  Ah... there are democratic humanists, still! 

 

Invitation!

 

In fact, Bill Hayward is such a democrat that he would like to invite every reader of this review (all three million of you) to the party for Bad Behavior at Serena, Chelsea Hotel, 222 W 23rd Street, Tuesday February 27 6-9pm. 

 

Bill Hayward Bad Behavior with an introduction by Carter Ratcliff.  Rizzoli New York December 2000 160 pages 90 black and white photographs

 

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