Michal Chelbin “How to Dance the Waltz”


poster for Michal Chelbin “How to Dance the Waltz”

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ClampArt presents Michal Chelbin’s exhibition “How to Dance the Waltz,” her first solo show at the gallery, and her fifth in New York City. The exhibition coincides with the release of Chelbin’s monograph of the same title from Damiani (Hardcover, 108 pages, 11 x 12 inches, $60).

In his preface to the book, Joseph Akel writes: “That pervading sense of contradiction, that eruptive moment when budding youth clashes with burgeoning adulthood, lies at the heart of Chelbin’s images, evinced through her juxtaposition of teenage subjects captured in garments, costumes, and uniforms symbolic of long-standing institutions and their traditions.” The artist has long been fascinated by costumes and uniforms, commenting on how youth is so startlingly apparent—especially when dressed up in the clothes of adulthood. This fascination led Chelbin over the course of five years to photograph young matadors training at schools in Seville, Spain; cadets at a military academy in Ukraine; and high school students on the eve of prom in Kiev (the capital of Ukraine). The artist looks at puberty and gender as a performance that involves keen attention to costumery. The photographs address the ways in which societal expectations of gender, especially in regard to clothing and uniform, inform a young person’s development and identity. With the subjects gazing directly into the artist’s lens, Chelbin’s remarkable portraits simultaneously represent the sitters’ vulnerability and self-possession.

But again, as observed by Akel, Chelbin’s young subjects are “bound by the traditions and institutions which frame their lives.” These are not the rebellious teens photographed by the likes of Larry Clark, Nan Goldin, and Ryan McGinley. Referring to Ukraine and Spain and their appeal to her, Chelbin observes, “It’s the Old World… [M]en are still taught to be men, to be warriors, and the women are taught to know how to dance a waltz.”



from April 15, 2021 to May 29, 2021

Opening Reception on 2021-04-17 from 14:00 to 19:00


Michal Chelbin

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