Project Gallery

Arne Svenson

Sock Monkeys

December 5 - January 11, 2003

The Julie Saul Gallery is pleased to announce our third solo exhibition of photographs by Arne Svenson entitled "Sock Monkeys". This comprehensive exhibition highlights an intriguing collection of classically posed portraits of hand-made sock monkeys as seen in the artists forthcoming second publication - sock monkeys (200 out of 1,863), with Ron Warren. The artist will be present at the opening and available to sign advance copies of the book.

Svenson's photographic series began when he met Ron Warren, a collector who has amassed a total of over 1,800 sock monkeys - those icons of American thrift and inventiveness that for generations have been hand-stitched from a pair of red-heel work socks. Stunned by the scope of the collection, Svenson offered to photograph each and every specimen. Long intrigued by taxonomy, his photographic work, ranging from botanically precise dissections of flowers to an intense fascination with the implements, residue, and dated specimens of forensic science, plows the anthropology of the the human condition. He saw in the sock monkey collection an opportunity to record the common link between hundreds upon hundreds of like items while at the same time the chance to illuminate and define the individuality of each member of that collective by photographing them separately.

Made of common threads and yarns, buttons and bells, each sock monkey portrays a specific appearance. Svenson has set about to record them in the manner of classic studio portraiture: each monkey flatteringly lit, cropped at the shoulders, eyes to the camera. The series is shot in black-and-white, the optimal medium for highlighting each monkey's expressiveness. Focusing on the eyes and facial characteristics, the artist seeks out the same indicators of personality that he would with a human subject. The resultant 20" x 24" portraits are an engaging, humorous, and at times disturbing, reanimation of creatures long relegated to the attic or the back of a closet.

Copies of sock monkeys (200 out of 1,863) will be available at the gallery. Invited contributors to the book including Jonathan Safran Foer, Penn and Teller, Simon Doonan, Isaac Mizrahi and Glenn O'Brien, have interjected original short stories inspired by the subject of their favorite sock monkey photograph. As Svenson noted, the stories "range from the sweet to the frightening, the sublime to the bizarre."

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