Michal Chelbin: The Black Eye

Artist's Opening Reception & Book Signing: Saturday, October 23 from 6 to 8 pm

M+B is pleased to announce an exhibition of new color photographs, The Black Eye, by Israeli artist Michal Chelbin. Chelbin’s photographs of young Eastern European wrestlers evoke both Diane Arbus and Mary Ellen Mark, inhabiting a world between fiction and documentary as they explore the complex relationship between the subject’s captured gaze and presence.  Her first exhibition on the West Coast in six years, the opening reception for the artist on Saturday, October 23 from 6 to 8pm will include a book signing for Chelbin’s recently published monograph of the same name by Twin Palms Publishers. The exhibition runs from October 23 to December 5, 2010.

The Black Eye
recalls classical images of athletes, but with a twist. Unlike traditional pictures of wrestlers that exalt the physical form and seek to reveal some transcendent ideal, Chelbin's formally composed photographs are grounded in their nowness. The subjects—young Eastern European athletes of professional wrestling schools—are exhausted, sweaty, bruised and bored, photographed in their first few minutes of recovery. This moment, when the sitters discard public personae, is when Chelbin releases the shutter, revealing the disunion between fantasy and reality. Foregoing digital manipulation or cropping, Chelbin's photographs reveal a measured intimacy within a genuine timeline. 

Dislocated from their recent wrestling environments, the athletes are uniformly composed within a square format, photographed against brightly colored, but plain walls, or outside in lush landscapes, highlighting the emotional complexities of each individual sitter.  Though tender moments can be found, Chelbin’s work is neither nostalgic nor candid.  Subtle and subdued, a staged casualness is captured, one that pairs luscious colors and delicate poses with bruised skin, sweaty hair and ruddy faces; revealing the subject in a seemingly private moment between exhaustion and recovery. An honest inscrutability gives the photographs a sense of presence and uniqueness that is the hallmark of Chelbin's work.

Based in Tel Aviv, Michal Chelbin (Israeli, b. 1974) graduated from the Wizo Academy of Design and Education in Israel in 2001. Chelbin was short listed for the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery in London 2009 and has been included in prestigious group exhibitions including "Photography Now," Woodstock Center of Photography, curated by Natasha Lunn (2006); "Fotografia" Hendrik Andersen Museum, Rome (2004); "Spread in Prato," curated by Pier Luigi Tazzi, Prato, Italy (2004); and "Artists of the Ideal," Verona, Italy (2002).  Works by Chelbin are held internationally in private and public collections including the Getty Museum (Los Angeles), Portland Art Museum, The Jewish Museum (New York) and Tel Aviv Museum of Art. This will be Chelbin’s first exhibition at M+B.