All Star, 2016 © Valérie Belin. Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York and Zurich.
For this series, Belin utilizes the fantastical world of vintage comic books as the inspiration for multilayered portraits that are both visually and psychologically complex. To create the works, Belin first styles and photographs her models in dramatic lighting reminiscent of film noir. Then, selecting from an extensive collection of vintage comics, she overlays the image with the chosen comic cover before further abstracting the pictorial surface with her own graphic patterns. Bursting in from the background, the worlds of the comics interweave with the texture of the portraits to create a sophisticated composition in which variations of movement, line, depth of field and scale are all combined within one surface.
After Thor, 2016 © Valérie Belin. Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York and Zurich.
Borrowing from the tradition of pop artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Belin utilizes graphic and exuberant comics as a source for greater psychological exploration. Ranging from the empowered story of Super Girl to the dramatic passion seen in the image Confessions of the Lovelorn, each comic tells a different story and supplies an alternate narrative for the woman pictured. Belin imagines these women in a reality apart from, yet connected to, the fantastical realm of the comics, and she likens the spiraling composition of imagery to the flurry of ideas and imaginings within the women’s minds. Through her combination of the darker film noir depiction of the model with the glowing idealism of the comics, Belin constructs a new genre where the distinctions between polar ideals such as good and evil, right and wrong, and joy and despair become more elaborate and ambiguous.
In coordination with the show, the artist will participate in a conversation with Quentin Bajac, Chief Curator of Photography at MoMA, at the Albertine bookstore on 28 February at 7pm. The event is free and open to the public.
Confessions of the Lovelorn, 2016 © Valérie Belin. Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York and Zurich.