Marie Tomanova: Young American at the Czech Center New York

Art Scene

Marie Tomanova: Young American at the Czech Center New York

Intentionally human and unintentionally political, the Marie Tomanova: Young American exhibition at the Czech Center New York offers an insider’s view into a vibrant pocket of New York’s youth culture. Orbiting around two epicenters, downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn, Tomanova’s photographs capture a diverse and eclectic range of young people that includes both migrants to the city and native New Yorkers. The exhibition features over 220 candid color portraits culled from larger bodies of work.

Young American Britney

Marie Tomanova, Britney

Shot at parties and art openings, or rendezvous at apartments, rooftops and parks, the faces of Tomanova’s subjects fill the vast majority of her image frames. Her choice to work from such a limited corporeal vantage point is both compelling and intentional. Shooting with film and a simple Yashika point and shoot camera, the eyes of each subject framed by variations in hair, piercings, makeup, skin tone, hair texture, eye color, and bone structure offer a kaleidoscope of intrigue.

Young American Ryan

Marie Tomanova, Ryan

What Tomanova’s co-collaborators all share, in many cases, is an intimate yet neutral gaze that they direct back at Tomanova behind the lens. A curtain seems to be lifted, revealing a shared space that Tomanova also occupies; a space where the open, curious and hopeful qualities of youth exist alongside a non-judgemental beingness. There is no sense of naiveté in the images. Instead, a deflowered innocence well aware of a larger, troubled adult world also seems to be at play – speaking to a particular 21st century experience.

Young American Matthew

Marie Tomanova, Matthew

The photographs, essentially life size and installed at eye level, are accompanied by a large video slideshow in the main exhibition space and two short videos in a screening room on the lower level. All of the videos feature additional portraits. The pairing of the large video installation with 14 unframed portraits, at 38.5” x 25.7” each, creates a sense of immersion into the humanity that animates this scene. For art enthusiasts, Young American may call to mind the insider intimacy of photographer Nan Goldin, Malick Sidibé’s lens on youth culture in Mali, or the work of photographers Ryan McGinley and Juergen Teller.

Young American Alannah

Marie Tomanova, Alannah

However, the shared gaze found in Tomanova’s portraits as a body of work seems to unify the obvious distinctions in personal style found in her subjects. Viewing the work as a collection of images is in fact where their political power lies. The direct and accepting gaze between photographer and subject at close proximity to one another speaks to a particular human power, the capacity for empathy. Meanwhile, the unorchestrated diversity of Tomanova’s subjects across race, ethnicity and gender, and perhaps class, under the auspices of the exhibition’s title, Young American, offers a definitive definition of what it means to be American.

Young American Alton

Marie Tomanova, Alton

Marie Tomanova: Young American is on view through August 10, 2018. Curated by Thomas Beachdel, it is the final exhibition in the Czech Center New York’s New Bohemia Exhibition series.