KAREN BRETT/LARISSA FASSLER at Gallery 44 (401 Richmond West, suite 120), to July 7. 416-979-3941. Rating: NNNN
In our ridiculously youth-ob sessed culture, it's generally believed that the young get the lion's share of action in the bedroom while the elderly are condemned to the sidelines.
Karen Brett and Larissa Fassler challenge this misconception in The Sexual Landscape Recast. Their portraits present new views of how both generations approach sexuality. The truth, they find, is much more encouraging.
Fassler's series of photos are the product of an elaborate two-year project in which she asked six teenage girls to portray their own ideas of intimacy. When the girls were 14 and then 16, they posed for a series of photographs with two male actors of the same age. They preen and pout with their acting partners for Fassler's still and video camera to enact their impressions of idealized couplehood.
Fassler's psychological insight is keen on this point: teenage sexuality and dating rituals centre on giving form to the idea of what a hot young couple should look like. The result is at times awkward and entirely endearing. The girls take command, directing the gawky boy models into romantic poses from print ads and attempting to smooth their own charmingly unsettled faces into modelesque masks of cool sensuality.
Brett, for her part, put out a call for adults between the ages of 70 and 90 who were willing to be photographed in intimate situations with their partners. Her giant photos explore the elderly body as a topographic terrain that is none the poorer for being traversed. There is a sexual theatricality here, but also a tenderness made all the more compelling by the tangible mortality of her subjects. These couples are less concerned with ideals than with holding onto each other.
Brett's photos are windows into a more settled and wiser sensuality that Fassler's younger subjects, with luck, will have a lifetime to grow into.