Body poetic

Alvin Booth transforms female figure into transcendent images

An inventive photographer, Alvin Booth embodies hope and promise. Even his frazzled hair is spiked with a look of happy epiphany. For 14 years a hairdresser in England, Booth used to concoct exotic do's for the models on fashion shoots and begged the photographers to immortalize them. Less than 10 years ago, he decided to take a camera in hand and do it himself. That's when the slim sprite found out how difficult the whole process could be.

And how rewarding. He's been teaching himself ever since. Booth has developed a style that in the last six years has brought him critical success here and abroad. Most of the works on view at Jackson Fine Art are excerpts from a current series he calls "Osmosis." Rather than print on standard-sized photo paper, Booth buys it by the roll and prints in a 40-by-20-inch format. He tones and distresses the images by hand and displays each limited edition silver print in a sealed glass, copper-edged frame of his own making.

In "Osmosis," nude female figures are seen through a unique scrim. His models pose behind or press against a great sheet of latex, the kind used for dental dams, and he photographs their glowing backlit forms. The effect is ephemeral and otherworldly. With edges dissolving and facial features barely distinguishable, bodies become poetry. Sometimes, there's the consequence of static in their hair, an exclamatory halo not unlike their creator's coif. The top of a head pushed hard against the latex reveals the gleaming beauty of the skull. In one view of feet and legs, toes stretch up and feet curve to cup a space of light.

Fascinated with the female body, Booth translates it into a powerful, transcendent form. The latex works like a veil to romanticize and abstract the figure. Flesh is spirit; the body appears weightless and infinitely fluid.

Booth's interest in movement and the human form led him to invent his "Clockwork" series. Gold-bodied dancers shimmy, pirouette and flap their arms in his amusing kinetic sculptures, assemblages that make still images move. He places two different views of the same figure (arms up/arms down, hips to the left/hips to the right) back to back in a three-inch round frame. He suspends the copper-edged disk from a small glass-encased motor. When wound and released, the disk spins, creating the vintage fantasy of an animated photograph.

Also on view, Booth's new book Corpus is a gilded photo study in the aesthetics of bondage. Gleaming metallic figures are tightly bound in strips of latex or a front-lacing one-piece latex corset designed by the artist. Coated with oil and gold powder, they flex against their trusses, less erotic than reminiscent of recent high-fashion enslavement. Still, art-loving voyeurs may be titillated by Booth's obsession with bronzed exoticism, a faceless look at the perfect body all tied up.

Works by Alvin Booth are on view through May 13 at Jackson Fine Art, 3115 E. Shadowlawn Ave. Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. 404-233-3739.

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