Suited Up: Nicholos Grider's Formal Subjects
A formal suit is the ubiquitous uniform for any rite of passage. Aside from its occasional ministerial function, or the vampiric associations lent to the black-suited male in the poems of Sylvia Plath, a man dons a suit not to stand out but to blend in. It’s a form of corporate camouflage (one that the recent economic meltdown has rendered touchingly obsolete). He wears it not to reveal his personality but conceal it beneath a soft-plated armor. What happens when he’s lifted from that context - that close knit herd of suited males who are going somewhere, and transplanted into a domestic setting where he is going nowhere? More often than not he appears deeply uncomfortable, as revealed in the majority of photos by Nicholas Grider in his current exhibition at the Portrait Society Studio.
Men sporting suits are photographed in different domestic interiors: standing in a small kitchen with a hand resting lightly on a counter with the sharp lines of clothing echoed in the chrome-plated appliances; perched on a stool with elbow on the table and head in hands; pushed far back into an over-stuffed couch with the inane flounces of a window dressing serving as a backdrop; or lazily slouched in armchairs in inky interiors reminiscent of designer shots in chic magazines. With the exception of a few, the majority of the subjects seem to be caught in an armchair -laden purgatory to which they’ve resigned with minimal resistance and a stiff upper lip.
The artist has been shooting pictures of men in suits since 2003. “It’s something I’d like to continue for years, working up a series, an archive,” says Grider. And why not? It may serve as a worthy anthropological survey. The cultural significance of the suited male has changed over time, from the comically attired bowler-hatted tramp of Charlie Chaplin to the sinister and outlandish figures of Rene Magritte’s surreal paintings and the overwhelming failure of capitalism the power suit represents today. Who knows where exactly he is bound?
“Men in Suits” is on show at the Portrait Society, on the fifth floor of the Marshall building on the corner of North Water and East Buffalo Street.