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Roberto Dutesco at the United Nations

About the Exhibition: A World Without Borders: "The Wild Horses of the Sable Islands" March 24-April 4 - Exhibition by The French Cultural Association at the United Nations. Contact: 212-645-6286.

Roberto Dutesco's fashion photography has appeared regularly in magazines including but not limited to Vogue, Details, Vanity Fair, GQ, and Interview. For decades, editors have relied on his ability to capture the most striking aspects of a model, a piece of fabric, or environment. His reliably sleek, clean, dramatic esthetic has consistently had the edge required to sustain a career in the oft-cutthroat world of fashion. (Click here to visit his website.)

Therefore, upon hearing that the photographer had embarked on a personal project photographing horses in their natural habitat on an island near Nova Scotia, one might have the justifiable impression that Dutesco had lost his mind. Horses? Aren't they up there with ballerinas and kittens as mawkish subjects that appeal mostly to the cultureless inhabitants of suburban tract homes? Particularly with titles as schmaltzy as Sweet Love and Unicorn, Dutesco appeared to be asking for it. Or perhaps he'd launched a sudden, mysterious campaign to seduce the pre-teen set and the publishers of bank calendars.

Nothing, as it turns out, could be farther from the truth. The horse series is stunning, and a very happy surprise. Dutesco's ability to exploit the sensual texture of hair, for instance, is gorgeously evident in several pictures. One of these, Fearless depicts a defiant-looking animal with a noble stature and flowing mane that might conjure up memories of Elle McPhearson. Another horse seems to have been done up with crimping iron, its fuzzy mane blowing glamorously in the wind. Musculature is played to maximum effect in several images of horses congregating, sometimes rearing up on their hind legs.

  As usual, drama is the key element of Dutesco's work. For Love Bridge, he caught two horses nuzzling each other in a manner that their silhouette is the shape of a heart. Both animals look out with alarmingly human-seeming sensuality in their eyes, rather as if in a Calvin Klein perfume ad. Talk shows one horse seeming to whisper in another's ear, looking away as if to make sure nobody else was sneaking up to hear. How Dutesco caught the moment and got so close to the creatures, which are actually ravishingly, simply beautiful is something of a miracle

Dutesco posted a poem he had written about the work on a wall with several of his photographs:
With time everything changes
Horses become sand
Bones become rocks
Rocks and sand grow flowers
And flowers bring color
To a world of black and white
Shadows of light across the horizon
What makes that?
My love for something that travels in silence
The almost transcendentally wise observation of his equine muses and their surroundings makes one wonder what Dutesco had in his head when he had Linda, Christy and Naomi in front of his lens

There was an odd thing occurring at the opening as well: unrepentantly sentimental photographs unanimously moving the regular crowd of difficult-to-impress fashionistas. People who can, at times, seem rather bloodless in their pursuit of beauty, found much to admire in photographs of wild animals living on an island, unfettered by human presence. Surrounded by UN security guards in bulletproof vests, the gathering was, like Dutesco's work, surprisingly down-to-earth and sweet.

-Sarah Valdez
Sarah Valdez is an associate editor at Artnews Magazine. She lives in New York City. Read her other recent reviews: Richard Avedon Exhibition; Herman Landshoff Exhibition at F.I.T.; First Assistants Show; Extreme Beauty: The Body Transformed exhibition at the Costume Institute and the Guy Bourdin photo exhibition at the Pace/MacGill Gallery.

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