”ISABEL MAGOWAN’S PICTURES OFFER A PARTICULAR VIEW INTO A LIFE OF AMERICAN PRIVILEGE, BUT WITH AN IRONIC, SARDONIC TWIST. EXECUTED WITH TECHNICAL PERFECTION, SHE EXPLORES THEMES OF SELF IMAGE AND WORTH, AND MOMENTS OF INNER CLARITY AND SUBTLE DARKNESS. THESE HEIGHTENED, SATURATED PHOTOGRAPHS E ORTLESSLY BLUR MELODRAMA WITH MOMENTS OF TRUE INTIMACY.”—GREGORY CREWDSON
“For some children, youth is just a dress rehearsal for something greater: artistic accolades, professional excellence, an advantageous marriage. Isabel Magowan’s first solo show, Dress Rehearsal, depicts people—mostly girls on the cusp of adulthood—whose lives and identities have been buoyed by pageantry and anticipation, but who are arriving at the moment of realizing that their expectations are structurally unsound.
Magowan’s pictures of young people are claustrophobic. The subjects either rehearse an adulthood they don’t seem to want, or they seize a sinister power whose cost they cannot yet assess. A girl gazes uncertainly into a mirror, ignoring the coquettish collar ru es that swat at her cheeks, while another stares dead-eyed at the camera in the midst of a perfect split, her mouth unyielding in spite of the childish flower perched on her chest. Most of the girls in Magowan’s images seem both practiced and eerily possessed—they’re in costume, they’re aware of the camera, and their body language is prescribed. In the only picture that appears unpoised, two girls drag their limp friend across a carpet that resembles broken glass. They could be playing a game, or dumping a body; Magowan seems to imply that one could lead to the other.
As they stare into the future, the young subjects of Dress Rehearsal would likely not see themselves in the adults that populate Magowan’s work; their vision of adulthood—the future for which these young hopefuls have rehearsed—has degraded beyond recognition.
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