Slow Drip Preservation
-Reporting by Eliza Newman–
Culver City’s growing artistic community has a new attraction. A lone door and sign with simple lettering mark the entrance to the Kopeikin Gallery. Within the past month, the excitement surrounding an impressive photography exhibit by Blake Little, titled, Preservation, has transformed this gallery from a little-known art space with a single Yelp review, to an international sensation.
After integrating honey into his photographs of a bear-like model in 2012, Little began posting ads for actors on Craigslist and working with modeling agencies to recruit models for the project. All told, Preservation, was two years in the making.
Today, art blogs are buzzing with Little’s photos of models dripping and oozing honey. Hail sweet fortune, this is Pompei without the horror. In Little’s own words, the models “look like they’re preserved in amber.” The grand opening took place on March 7th to the delight of gallery-goers throughout Los Angeles.
Already packed at 8 pm, latecomers had to wait in the first two rooms of the gallery before viewing the main attraction. While the hidden portraiture of Matthew Swart’s “Beth and the Alternatives” may pale in comparison to Little’s seductive photography, the small collection is certainly worth a look. Swart skillfully overlays small portraits of abstracted models with graceful geometric patterns, providing the perfect lead up to the larger exhibit. As people began to trickle out of the gallery, many stopped to purchase the entire book of Preservation photographs, a good sign that the artwork ahead is compelling. Slowly, the crowd moved forward, and the large, life-size photographs with black backgrounds became visible.
The scene inside is worth any wait. Visitors are first confronted with a vision of the Virgin Mary, her face masked by a viscous veil of honey. The figure sits next to a baby, and, oddly, a woman who appears to be either a call girl or perhaps a porn star. This muddling of grit, innocence, and even divinity represents an evocative choice by Little. Each photograph stands alone on account of the unlikely situation the honey has enshrined, establishing juxtapositions simultaneously reminiscent of baptism and erotica.
Soon, the models cease to resemble living people and appear to be sacred artifacts as veils and teardrops of what looks like molten amber drip from their bodies. The caramel-hued liquid covers knees and elbows and breasts indiscriminately, obscuring wrinkles as it pools into the caverns created by bodily curves.
Preservation embarks on a democratizing journey, mingling shapes and ethnicities. Little also depicts all stages of life, from an eighteen-month-old baby to an eighty-five-year-old woman. Their bodies are transformed equally with the honey gloss. This openness to “preserve” such diversity is in part what has attracted audiences from around the world.
Even though most of the photographs are nudes, there is nothing crass about them. On the contrary, the atmosphere is exciting, imaginative and even kid friendly. Part of the allure of this project is Little’s ability to both glorify and obscure the human body. By placing muscular and waifish figures alongside each other, he finds the middle ground, enhancing the collective weight of the project.
Little estimates that nearly 4,500 pounds of honey went into this multi-year project. His work won the American Photography AP29 back in 2012 as well as the second place award in the fine art nude category of the Int’l Photography /Lucie Foundation Awards in 2013.
The internet makes it easy to believe that Preservation’s success occurred overnight, in reality, however, the project took years to complete. Little labored hard to capture, edit, and preserve these images and create photographs that challenge the realism of the photographic form.
Preservation is not simply about a gimmick at play. Rather, the luminous viscosity of the honey helps to encapsulate the preexistent beauty of these photographs, making us question our relation to our flesh and each other.
Post Photos by Eliza Newman