Photographs and Films
March 28 to May 12, 2019
Ampersand is pleased to present an exhibition of photographs and films by John Kayser, who privately made images of women for the better part of 30 years in Los Angeles, California starting in the 1960s. His work was found only after his death in 2007. In this sense, he is more akin to an outsider than someone who deliberately engaged with the art world in the traditional sense. Even so, the images he made rival in originality and vision the works of artists considered to be masters in portraying the female form. Or, in the least, he provides an entirely unique and seductive point of view. Like other discoveries of this kind—Miroslov Tichý, Vivian Maeir, Type 42, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, to name a few—we are presented with a complete body of work all at once. It allows one to get immersed in the details that evolved through the years as he made photographs, always remaining true to his core vision of beauty as relates to the female figure. Drawing upon the 1000s of photographs that make up the collection, our current exhibition of nearly 200 images invites viewers to arrive at their own conclusion about what Kayser was up to. While there are obvious erotic, obsessive and even perverse overtones to the photographs, these words ultimately fail to capture all the nuance visible in what he made. This is underscored when one considers the photographs of clothed women Kayser took in various outdoor settings. Featured prominently in the exhibition, these pictures challenge the assumption that Kasyer was merely a nude photographer. On the other hand, images that feature the artist himself—women sitting or stepping on his head and face—introduce questions about sexuality and Kayser’s relationship to these women, many of whom appear in the photographs over the course of several years. These dynamic layers are ultimately magnified in his 8mm films, made using a common domestic movie camera of the era, but unlike anything you see from that time. They are ritualistic and performative in nature, setting in motion the visual acts that remained static in Kayser’s photos.
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