Has any body part lent itself more variously and evocatively to photographic fantasy than the leg? Legs are probably the most fetishized of appendages (thanks, in part, to the foot), but beyond the obvious erotic associations, legs are uniquely expressive; they are the locus of the body's mobility, the source of much of our physical capability and artistic vigor, and as such they are among photography's favorite emblems of human vitality, elegance and mystery. Times change, fashions change, but the leg--taut, tapering, torque-delivering--is eternal in its energies.
The photos in this exhibit reveal how creatively some of the medium's most inspired photographer's have captured the female leg, fraught and freighted as it may be with its obvious associations. There's the contemporary Czech postmodernist Stanko Abadzic--whose images will range from breezy, naturalistic appreciations of sheer legginess and shapely calves to expressionistic abstractions of disembodied or strangely shadowed legs--and then there's a 19th-century master such as Auguste Belloc, whose ornately staged, rigorously well-exposed portraits of nudes removing their stockings are at once erotic relics and tender portrayals from the albumen print era.
In between, of course, lies a continuum of compelling leg photography, from anonymous fashion shots that idealize the female form as a leg-dominant geometry of right, acute and obtuse angles (after Andre Kertesz's classic 1926 image, "Satiric Dancer") to Lisa Holden's subtly colored mixed-media studies of female form and identity to so much more. Indeed, Robert Mapplethorpe could turn the playful posings of body-builder Lisa Lyon's muscular legs into a formal celebrity portrait, while a surrealist like Marcel Mariel could fetishize mannequin limbs or living nudes in a strangely casual way.
If anything, female leg photography tends to be divided between such studies of the leg as a classic still-life "objet" and those which seek to describe legs in motion. Max Waldman's modern dance photographs locate the exquisite leg thrust and breathtaking form of a diva such as Natalia Makarova, while street photographers such as Monsieur X will capture female legs in full beachfront frolic, and a postmodern wizard such as Krysztof Pruszkowski will suggest angelic, fluttery leg movement through blurred multiple exposures. These, like all of the images on display in this exhibit, prove well enough that photography will never exhaust its potential for discovering the ineffable qualities of those lower limbs.