Mostly whimsical reflections on life
John Malkovich has played some quirky roles, but none as quirky as model for classic photographic reproductions ranging from Albert Einstein to Marilyn Monroe.
The reproductions in “Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: Homeage to Photographic Masters” aren’t schlock. To the untrained eye, they hardly seem different than the originals, with the exception of traces of Malkovich sneaking through makeup and the pose. The traces don’t detract.
Malkovich’s poses are, you might say, picture perfect. His “Albert Einstein Sticking Out His Tongue” is hard to distinguish from the actual Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue, as captured by Arthur Sasse in 1951. Malkovich manages to stretch out more tongue.
One of the most striking re-creations is Malkovich as the “Migrant Mother,” an iconic image shot in 1936 by Dorothea Lange. All the sad facets of Malkovich’s fungible face are employed to convey the quiet despair of a woman holding her baby, with older children caressing against her weary shoulders. The Malkovich version may be even more freighted than the original. It certainly is a picture you could post on a wall to remind yourself that your problems may not be so big after all.
His Andy Warhol “Green Marilyn” is a little less convincing, but still charming. “Marilyn in Pink Roses” is equally far off the mark in the face, but the composition and pink on black and white coloring is so good, who cares. It is hard to fault Malkovich for failing to resemble Marilyn Monroe. Most impersonators come up short. He comes pretty close with the two pink roses.
“Alfred Hitchcock with a Goose” is funny, even though Malkovich doesn’t really look like Hitchcock, which is something to crow about. Instead of cocking his head a la Hitchcock, Malkovich chose to mimic a New York waiter telling a patron, “So, you really want goose?”
My personal favorite is “Che Guevara,” Alberto Korda’s 1960 photographic portrait of the revolutionary. Malkovich captures the timeless determination that characterized Guevara and made him the stuff of legend. Malkovich may not be Che’s body double, but he could have stirred a crowd just as easily.
The weirdest portrait is the messianic “Muhammed Ali,” with the famous fighter punctured with arrows that appeared on the cover of Esquire magazine. It is hard to contort your body, even if you are John Malkovich, to look like Ali. Even though he may not look the part, Malkovich, in white trunks and white shoes, conveys the pathos of the original photograph by Carl Fisher in 1967.
Other portrait knockoffs include John Lennon with Yoko Ono, Ernest Hemingway, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali and Bette Davis. Malkovich reprises the American Gothic photo of a woman standing in front of an American flag, flanked by a broom and a mop. But the killer impression has to be Malkovich out-grinning Jack Nicholson’s Joker. Nobody but Malkovich could match a kisser like that. Few would even try.
The exhibit will be showcased at the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago from November 7 to January 15