Isabelle Wenzel’s Discomforting yet Humorous Photography

by Roxanne GoldbergPosted on

Heels fly high in Isabelle Wenzel’s surrealist photographs of women awkwardly positioned within office spaces and against arranged backdrops. In each thematically unique series, the female body contorts into geometric forms in which the head is always concealed. The abstract shapes separate any association from the human personality and present the individual as an object. Some works make this separation explicit, such as the 2011 series, “Models of Surfaces.” In these photographs, the focus is not on the unnaturally placed bodies, but instead on the textures of the fabrics that clothe the raised legs.

Other works use the same visual language to address socio-political issues with humor and absurdity. The 2010 series “Building Images,” has a 1960s aesthetic that is enhanced by the use of sheer stockings and kitten heels. Wenzel sets her figures within office spaces and presents them as overwhelmed with papers and binders, unable to complete the tasks at hand. (A video on Wenzel’s website shows her process in creating one of these photographs.) In her most recent works, “Positions,” Wenzel depicts legs in colorful stockings balancing cups and vases. The female form is not only abstract here, but is also presented as an object of service, for the bodies are arranged in such a way that coffee appears to be offered on the same platter as sex.

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