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The Chemistry of Symmetry: Photographer Laetitia Soulier
By Jessica Caplan, Journalist

Art lovers streamed into the Aperture Foundation last Thursday to check out the solo show of Exposure award winner Laetitia Soulier. Many showed up with clothes and umbrellas dripping from a dramatic summer storm, eyes and ears still buzzing from nature’s thunder and lightning show. It was an apt prelude to a viewing of Soulier’s photographs, which, like the calm before a storm, channel a quiet and visually captivating ferocity.

Two of Soulier’s series were on display, the Palindromes and the Matryoshka Dolls. The Palindromes consist of four, long rectangular photographs featuring urban transit spaces that are daily conduits for people: a parking lot, a train, and their entrances and exits. Soulier plays with symmetry and spatial relationship in these photos, whose starkness (the normally busy places are hauntingly unpeopled) and wistful melancholy are reminiscent of some of German photographer Karl Hugo Schmolz’s work. The rectangular images of the empty space are coupled in diptych style with square images of identical twin children, who clearly occupy a corner of the same space, though at a different time. The eye naturally scans the larger image, to identify the exact spot where the children were, or will be in the future. In this way, Soulier guides the viewer into interacting with manmade constructs. The use of twins intensifies the symmetry motif; we are all similar, yet intrinsically unique. At the same time, the appearance of the children – seated together, yet seemingly alone – creates a dark dichotomy between the similar and the alien.

The Matryoshka series (a sub-section of the Fractal Architectures series) consists of three shots of a dreamy interior that is actually a miniature model, in 1/24 scale to life-size. The models are highly detailed, akin to modern CGI renderings; Soulier hand-built them herself over many months. Each wall is papered with repetitive fractal patterns adapted from the shape of Russian Matryoshka dolls, which confuses the scale of the images, turning the familiar into the foreign. Still, the overall effect is alluring; the photographs beckon viewers into their cozy havens, to enjoy a warm cup of tea, or run their hands along the smooth walls.

For those who found it hard to grasp how the Matryoshka series came together, a time-lapse video played on loop, showing Soulier making the piece from scratch. Gypsy violinist Hannah Thiem provided a stirring live soundtrack to Soulier’s photographs, which challenged viewers’ perceptions of reality and drew them into this thoughtful artist’s haunting worlds.

Laetitia Soulier: Solo Show at the Aperture Foundation
Aperture Foundation
547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10001

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