22
Mar
13

Exhibition: ‘Catherine Opie’ at Regen Projects, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 23rd February – 29th March 2013

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In a nutshell: good presentation, good idea – just needs really good pictures. In fact the presentation is too good for the pictures, so in the end it feels a bit ridiculous.

There IS something here (the relationship between young and old, wisdom and penitence, love and abuse, tondo and ethereal landscape), but it seems a bit of a muddle. For me, too many easy decisions have been made – obvious opposites, too much reliance on “black”, sometimes caricature rather than real observation… but then again there is occassionally something inside that caricature.

This feeling of muddling through is not helped by an abysmal press release. Along with zen and ironic (both of which seem to have any meaning a writer wants today), we now have sublime joining the pack. Maybe if anything is out of focus (such as these forgettable landscapes) it is sublime. As I go through each sentence I get shivers from either how generic or incorrect or meaningless or (especially) SELF-SERVING they are (…and now the new photographs make a trajectory… and now Opie draws on documentary photography AND the history of photography… and seduction, and formalism, and painting, and high aesthetic, and abstraction, and conceptualisation, a(n)d nauseum…)

I have seen “the Unphotographable” … and it is not as good as one hoped!

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Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

PS. When you walk across a room, you can remark about your chiaroscuro.

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Many thank to Regen Projects for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles © Catherine Opie

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Installation view Regen Projects, Los Angeles February 23 - March 29, 2013  Photography by Brian Forrest

Installation view Regen Projects, Los Angeles February 23 - March 29, 2013  Photography by Brian Forrest

Installation view Regen Projects, Los Angeles February 23 - March 29, 2013  Photography by Brian Forrest

Installation view Regen Projects, Los Angeles February 23 - March 29, 2013  Photography by Brian Forrest

Installation view Regen Projects, Los Angeles February 23 - March 29, 2013  Photography by Brian Forrest

Installation view Regen Projects, Los Angeles February 23 - March 29, 2013  Photography by Brian Forrest

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Installation views
Regen Projects, Los Angeles
February 23 – March 29, 2013
Photography by Brian Forrest

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Catherine Opie. 'Untitled #4' 2012

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Catherine Opie
Untitled #4
2012
Pigment print
40 x 60 inches (101.6 x 152.4 cm)
Edition 1/5, +2 APs

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Catherine Opie. 'Jonathan' 2012

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Catherine Opie
Jonathan
2012
Pigment print
50 x 38.4 inches (127 x 97.5 cm) Oval
Edition 1/5, + 2 APs

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Catherine Opie. 'Idexa' 2012

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Catherine Opie
Idexa
2012
Pigment print
50 x 38.4 inches (127 x 97.5 cm) Oval
Edition 1/5, + 2 APs

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“Regen Projects is pleased to announce an exhibition of new portraits and landscapes by Catherine Opie. These photographs mark both a progression and a departure for the artist. Opie’s work has always investigated the figure in relation to the landscape, disregarding the polarities typically found within these approaches. This new body of work draws upon Opie’s beginnings in documentary photography, the traditions of painting, and the history of photography.

Opie’s new portraits evoke the sublime and the inner psychological space of both the viewer and subject. Utilizing techniques of chiaroscuro, color, and formal composition found in classical 17th century portraiture, Opie arranges her subjects in allegorical poses that suggest an emotional state. Evoking formal classicism, these beautifully elegant and technically masterful compositions immerse and seduce the eye. Opie’s subjects have always been part of her personal community, and the range of individuals in these new works illustrates how this community has shifted and expanded.

Catherine Opie’s work is deeply rooted in the history of photography. The new landscapes draw upon this trajectory – both contemporary and historical. In addition to utilizing motifs that informed the California Pictorialists, these works reference the painterly tradition. Images of iconic landscapes float in abstraction and are reduced to elementary blurred light drawings. The viewer no longer relies on traditional markers of recognition of place, but instead on the visceral reaction to the sensate images Opie captures. These painterly, poetic, and lyrical visions resonate with oblivion, the sublime, and the unknown.

Catherine Opie’s complex and diverse body of work is political, personal, and high aesthetic – the formal, conceptual, and documentary are always at play. Her work consistently engages in formal issues and maintains a formal rigor and technical mastery that underscores an aestheticized oeuvre. Visual pleasure can always be found in her arresting and seductive images.

Opie very knowingly engages art-historical conventions of representation like this in order to seduce her viewers: “I have to be interested in art history since so much of my work is related to painting and photography history. It gives me the ability to use a very familiar language that people understand when looking at my work and seduce the viewer into considering work that they might not normally want to look at. It is very classical and formal in so many ways…. In a way, it is elegant in the seduction I was talking about earlier, that this device really can draw the viewer in through the perfection of the image. It is like wearing armor for a battle in a way, the battle for people to look into themselves for the prejudices that keep them from having an open mind.”

(Jennifer Blessing. “Catherine Opie: American Photographer” in Catherine Opie: American Photographer, published by The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2008, p. 14).”

Press release from the Regen Projects website

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Catherine Opie. 'Diana' 2012

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Catherine Opie
Diana
2012
Pigment print
33 x 25 inches (83.8 x 63.5 cm)
Edition 1/5, + 2 APs

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Catherine Opie. 'Mary' 2012

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Catherine Opie
Mary
2012
Pigment print
33 x 25 inches (83.8 x 63.5 cm)
Edition 1/5, + 2 APs

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Catherine Opie. 'Untitled #5' 2012

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Catherine Opie
Untitled #5
2012
Pigment print
40 x 60 inches (101.6 x 152.4 cm)
Edition 1/5, + 2 APs

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Catherine Opie. 'Oliver & Mrs. Nibbles' 2012

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Catherine Opie
Oliver & Mrs. Nibbles
2012
Pigment print
33 x 25 inches (83.8 x 63.5 cm)
Edition 2/5, + 2 APs

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Catherine Opie. 'Kate & Laura' 2012

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Catherine Opie
Kate & Laura
2012
Pigment print
77 x 58 inches (195.6 x 147.3 cm)
Edition 2/5, 2 APs

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Catherine Opie. 'Guinevere' 2012

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Catherine Opie
Guinevere
2012
Pigment print
33 x 25 inches (83.8 x 63.5 cm)
Edition 1/5, + 2 APs

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Catherine Opie. 'Untitled #2' 2012

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Catherine Opie
Untitled #2
2012
Pigment print
40 x 60 inches (101.6 x 152.4 cm)
Edition 1/5, + 2 APs

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Catherine Opie. 'Friends' 2012

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Catherine Opie
Friends
2012
Pigment print
24 x 18 inches (61 x 45.7 cm)
Edition 1/5, + 2 APs

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Catherine Opie. 'Untitled #1' 2012

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Catherine Opie
Untitled #1
2012
Pigment print
40 x 60 inches (101.6 x 152.4 cm)
Edition 1/5, +2 APs

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Regen Projects
6750 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90038, United States
T: +1 310-276-5424

Opening hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10 – 6pm

Regen Project website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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