Skull book jacket
Reviews

Library Journal Review of SKULL
by Nancy J. Mactague, formerly Aurora Univ. Lib., IL.

Over the course of 25 years, photographer Stern has created eight series of skull photographs, almost 150 tritone and quadratone images, all of which are included in this volume. Both Stern and art critic Kuspit make it clear that the camera does not equal the eye; the eye synthesizes and the camera analyzes.


The omnipotence of death, not the omnipotence of the artist is Stern’s theme. While photographing, Stern’s conscious concerns were formal; however, those concerns yielded emotion-fraught images, and she admits that she is still striving to accept death, which for her, is changeable and dynamic. Kuspit’s inclusion of art from Renaissance to contemporary times, such as Hans Holbein’s painting The Ambassadors (1533), with a distorted skull in the foreground, and still lifes with skulls by Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne, and Georges Braque, as well as footnotes to the works of other scholars, provides a firm ground on which to consider Stern’s photographs.


VERDICT The combination of Stern’s “deliteralization” of the skulls photographed and the philosopher/art historian’s contextualization of those images makes this book the perfect starting point for a multidisciplinary discussion or course on photography, philosophy, art history, and comparative religion. SKULL; Thames & Hudson; October 2017; 336pages, illus; ISBN 9780500970836;



Excerpts of Reviews
“I consider Stern equal parts sculptor and photographer. The visceral materiality of her work…is held in tension as one enters and exits spaces filled with darkness or emptied by infinite luminosity. [She is] carving with light.”—Alex Chowaniec, The Brooklyn Rail


“These enigmatic images of skulls account for perhaps the most sophisticated exploration of the subject matter by any artist, ever. Stern’s methodical photography practice using veils of fabric and the natural north light from her studio windows has produced incredible texture reminiscent of Seurat’s charcoal drawings.”—David Molesky, Juxtapoz


“Stern’s work as a whole is a triumph over death. The skulls by virtue of the photographs are immortal, personified with their own kind of vitality and character. They are untarnished by the effects of Time.” —Scarlett Davis, Musée

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Additional Reviews


Artnet Review of Findlay Show by Donald Kuspit
“Like the best abstract paintings, Stern’s abstract photographs are “mystical,” that is, afford a numinous experience. They exist on the threshold between the seen and the unseen. Her photographs have a direct relationship with Christian Schad’s Schadographs, Man Ray’s Rayographs, and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy’s Photograms, and perhaps above all to Alfred Stieglitz’s Equivalents (all their “experimental” photographs were made between the world wars), for his clouds seem like a prelude to her veils, which are more conclusively, cunningly, and conspicuously abstract. Her refined, unnerving photographs are the historically inevitable grand climax of more than a century of experimental photography.”
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The New York Observer Review of Gallery B.A.I Show by A. D. Coleman
“Deeply sensual yet rigorously formal, these images are not about what they are of. They stubbornly refuse to function as anything more than surfaces for the eye to move over, spaces for the eye to move through. Thus they raise this question: What is the relationship in photography between literal and metaphorical content?” More >


Arts Magazine by Barry Schwabsky
“Paul Caponigro has supplied a foreword to Lynn Stern: Unveilings, yet her set of variations on a simple figure/ground setup, a flower against a white coth background, is quite distant from Caponigro’s warmth: these images take on a complicated purity that is almost violent in effect. They are among the strongest photographic images I have seen recently.” More >


Dia de Valladolid by Angelica Tanarro
“The skulls and the veils of Lynn Stern guide the viewer toward “the threshold between the visible and the invisible” - a place in which, despite the passing of years or the differences in the series’ subject matter, some constants emerge: “Certain key elements,” according to the photographer, such as “a quality of indirect light that seems to emanate from within like a spiritual presence.”
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El Norte de Castilla by Angelica Tanarro
“For Stern, the object is a means – a ‘medium,’ we should say, given how mysterious her black-and-white images are. What stand out are points of light that emphasize the range of grays, as well as textures – created by interposing a fabric between the lens and the object – that evoke conte crayon drawings. The whole exhibition takes you back to the Spanish mystic tradition, to artists such as Zurbarán (Stern’s work overflows with the spiritual nature of white).”
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Diario de Valladolid by Christina San Jose
“More than a hundred photographs from fourteen different series fill the galleries of the Museo Fundación Cristóbal Gabarrón in an exhibit in which Stern intends “to de-literalize what is in front of the lens.” In the same way that one always tries to see in paintings something beyond what the work shows directly, Stern wants her photographs to project more than what is seen by the eye.”
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