With a keen anthropological eye, photographer Charles Fréger has spent his career creating classical portraits of groups of people, often in uniform or with a defined organizational affiliation. In "Wilder Mann," Fréger, who has focused on subjects as diverse in symbol and scope as the French foreign legion, schoolchildren, and sumo wrestlers, turns a discerning eye on the trappings of identity.
"To me, it's the question of what it is to be in a community, [to] take part of a group, the relationship, not questioning the individual, but more the group itself," Fréger says. "You see each individual, and then you understand how the group is working."
The Rouen-based artist, who has exhibited extensively in Europe and in Asia, makes his New York debut with "Wilder Mann" opening tomorrow at The Gallery at Hermès, along with a concurrent exhibition at Chelsea's Yossi Milo Gallery. "Wilder Mann," curated by Cory Jacobs, unleashes the beast within all of us.
A tribal-rooted tradition, the "wild man" surfaces across Europe—from Bulgaria to Macedonia to Scotland—as a figure that celebrates seasonal transitions, life, death, and fertility. Solely embodied by men (and oftentimes teenage boys) and performed during festivals, these anthropomorphic creatures and their elaborate costumes are predicated on geographic location and regional flavor. Constructed from local vegetation, animal skins, and other materials, they serve as a reminder of man's primal past and signal man's ever-evolving relationship with nature. Fréger, who spent two years traversing 19 countries in pursuit of these wild men, captures them as mythical and surreal icons. "It's like they are representing everything which is from outside of reality," Fréger explains.
This exhibition marks the first in 2013 for The Gallery at Hermès, in conjunction with the Hermès Foundation. Formed in 2008, the Hermès Foundation oversees programming of six exhibition spaces worldwide, and seeks to empower emerging contemporary artists with the tools and exposure needed to augment their already developing careers.
Located within select retail spaces, with free access to the public, the galleries offer shoppers and visitors alike an exclusive opportunity to participate in Hermès' rich artistic heritage and support the next wave in emerging talent.
"WILDER MANN" OPENS TOMORROW AT THE GALLERY AT HERMÈS, 691 MADISON AVENUE AND AT YOSSI MILO GALLERY, 245 10TH AVENUE. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CHARLES FRÉGER, VISIT HIS WEBSITE.