Carl Holman, Assistant Director (904) 620-1921
Carl Holman, Assistant Director
The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, a cultural resource of the University of North Florida, is honored to inaugurate its Project Atrium series with a dramatic, salon-style installation of Los Angeles photographer Melanie Pullen’s “High Fashion Crime Scenes.” This exhibitionwill be on display from Saturday, July 16, to Sunday, Nov. 6. Pullen will conduct a lecture about her work and process at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 16, at the museum, which is located at 333 North Laura Street, next to the main library.
For her series, Pullen focused on the violent past of her adopted city—Los Angeles. Particularly interested in the tumultuous years of the 1940s and 1950s, she began investigating the crimes that occurred during these decades. Her “High Fashion Crime Scenes” are based on vintage crime-scene images she mined from the files of the Los Angeles Police Department, the County Coroner’s Office, and other primary sources.
“The unique placement, dimensions and scale of MOCA’s atrium provide a singular opportunity for engaging contemporary artists such as Pullen in monumental site‐specific or site‐sensitive projects,” said Marcelle Polednik, director of MOCA Jacksonville. “Beginning with this exciting presentation, each of the Project Atrium exhibitions will present a challenge to the chosen artist—a call to reinvention, and an active collaboration with the architecture of the museum.”
Pullen was born in New York City in 1975. Her photography has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including solo shows at: Ace Gallery, Los Angeles (2008) and Ace Gallery, Beverly Hills (2005); MiCamera, Milan (2007); and White Wall Gallery, Seoul (2006). Her work has also been included in various museum exhibitions such as: Carnegie Art Museum (2008); The Museum of Photographic Arts (2007); The Contemporary Arts Center and The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art (2006).
Her photographic series have been featured in numerous publications and broadcasts including New York Times Magazine, L.A. Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Art Review, The London Independent on Sunday Review, Vogue, Elle, Fortune, W, GQ, Rolling Stone, Nylon, Photo, Art Forum, National Public Radio, CBS Radio and CBS News.
“When working with the coroner and old police archives, I sought reference photos that often didn’t have any information left over from the crime, as it was a way for me to fill in the apparent blanks; thus, allowing my mind to explore the story,” said Pullen.
Drawn to the images preserved in the criminal records, she began reenacting the crime scenes in a series of monumental, highly crafted photographs that weave together the violent scenes from the past with references to the film and fashion industries of contemporary Los Angeles.
Using the city as a stage set, and the police records as the stage directions, Pullen’s shoots mimic the elaborate trappings of high budget film production. As the director, she crafts elaborate story boards for each image, including the original photographic sources, sketches of the final shoot and production notes. She also frequently enlists the help of up to sixty people per shoot, including set builders, makeup artists, stylists and stunt crews.
To play the anonymous victims of the real historical crimes, Pullen casts popular actresses or models that appear in the photographs dressed in contemporary high fashion, a point emphasized by titles such as “Half Prada.” Glossy and cinematic, the life-size prints blur the distinction between past and present, fact and fiction, crime and spectacle.
For more information about Project Atrium and its related activities, visit http://www.mocajacksonville.org or call MOCA at (904) 366-6911.
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