»FRAUEN« in Conversation
The exhibition “Michael Schmidt »FRAUEN« in Conversation” presents the entirety of the “Frauen (Women)” series by Berlin photographer Michael Schmidt, who died in 2014, in dialogue with paintings, drawings, and other media by twelve women artists from different generations.
Over a period of three years, between 1997 and 1999, Schmidt photographed women aged between fourteen and thirty. The result was eighty-one analog black-and-white images: portraits, full-body shots, and detail photographs in a wide range of gray tones.
The human body as a starting point: a person, just like a large image, is individually composed of a unique combination of several distinguishing features such as size, shape and lines.
Schmidt’s photographs of women, on the other hand, dissolve the individuality, the overall view of each person. He was not interested in creating a stand-alone image; instead, he always worked in series.
The focus is not on each individual woman, but rather on the commonality of this age group, their formative shared experience. The ways they conform to socially mediated norms and ideals become visible. Their choice of outerwear or underwear, for example, can reflect a certain time period or geographical location. This becomes more apparent in the conscious alterations made to their actual bodies, such as piercings or shaved pubic hair. Both Jeanne Mammen’s drawing of a semi-nude woman with a pageboy haircut and accentuated eyes from around 1930/31 and Anne Imhof’s larger-than-life portrait painted in 2017 also refer to the role of the individual in society through gestures, facial expressions, and even hairstyles.
At a time when radical individualism is projected and demanded by social media, but in fact a conformity of content and representation often prevails, Schmidt’s “Frauen” series proves more topical and political than ever.
Schmidt originally photographed both women and men at the beginning of this series, but then focused on women, who for him embodied a stronger transformation and a new female consciousness.
To this day, the representation and treatment of the female body continues to reflect moral values, political trends, and shifts in gender roles and gender identity. The female body – what could be more political?