Naked Clothes, After Arbus and Mapplethorpe

Naked Clothes

After Arbus and Mapplethorpe

Through a series of creations inspired by the works of the great American photographers Diane Arbus (1923 – 1971) and Robert Mapplethorpe (1946 – 1989), Naked Clothes deals with the way beings are revealed by their attitudes and their clothing.

If with Arbus subjects photographed most often conceal their fragility behind “clumsy” clothing or grotesque pomp, with Mapplethorpe, they hide it within the bodies of models, with perfect body-built muscles and excessive care of appearance. In both cases we can surmise a mishandled eroticism, a dread of loneliness and shame.

« To evoke this, the drawings and paintings here use the photographs in different ways, either by transformations of appearance, by the appropriation of elements or the creation of new stories.

In their never-ending quest for the gaze and veracity of being, Guy Oberson’s creations are a continuation of the flagship trends and major aesthetic experiences of art history. The artist himself explains how, for example, the work of American photographer Diane Arbus inspires and nourishes his imagination. Thus, the series of drawings Altar Girls and Alter Ego affirm a direct link with a picture taken by Arbus in 1963, entitled Child Skipping Rope at a Puerto Rican Festival, NYC. The photograph shows a girl dressed in a white dress playing with a skipping rope; it focuses on the austere and strangely aged face in relation to the age of the child. The innocence of the dress contrasts with the apparent ugliness of the facial expression. On the basis of this same duality, Guy Oberson’s three representations emphasize the effervescence and naivety of bodily, childish play vis-à-vis the physiognomic ambiguity. Attached to the body or subtracted in an “alter ego”, the face sums up the quintessence of being, its mark.

The strength of a creed emerges from the meeting of these two artistic visions: like the photographs of Diane Arbus, Guy Oberson’s works transfigure the singularity of the marginal, non-stereotyped being. As a result, they interact perfectly with the famous portraits photographed by Diane Arbus in the street, at festivals and public fairs and in private hotels and private apartments in 1960s America.”

Dora Sagardoyburu, Art historian

From « Guy Oberson – Le corps radiographié » (The X-Rayed Body)

Text published in « Zones poreuses, carte blanche à Guy Oberson », Gallery C, Neuchâtel, 2016



This work was the subject of following exhibitions :

« Naked Clothes, after Arbus and Mapplethorpe »

Solo exhibition, Le Locle Museum of Fine Arts, Switzerland, 2018

Curator : Nathalie Herschdorfer.


Expositions collectives :

« TOT »

Galerie C, Neuchâtel, 2021


« Zones poreuses – Carte blanche à Guy Oberson »

Galerie C, Neuchâtel, 2016