For the 30th anniversary edition of ADAA: The Art Show, Lehmann Maupin is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new work by Catherine Opie. This body of work underscores Opie’s ongoing dialogue with the history of photography and investigation of American identity, as well as her recent undertaking of sculpture, which will be shown for the first time at the art fair. Opie’s photographs unite contemporary themes and issues with a classical aesthetic that expands upon her exploration of the tradition of photography as well as the greater art historical canon.
The photographs included are from a series shot in Yosemite National Park. Opie has spent a great deal of time visiting wildernesses across the U.S., and chose specifically to focus on Yosemite for this series due to the strong history and connection to the iconic photographer Ansel Adams, who is regarded as the authority on depictions of wild spaces. Through her use of different lenses, cropping, and blurring, Opie’s photographs explore the boundaries of Adams’ well-known vistas through her own compositions that focus or distort the viewer’s perspective in reconsideration of the confluence of art, geographic, political, and natural history represented when documenting national parks. Opie’s choice to create photographs within the classical genre of landscape and focus on the unique qualities or changing conditions of the land allows her to destabilize conventional narratives surrounding the American wilderness, revealing its reality to be as susceptible to change by time and intervention as our own bodies.
Shown in conjunction with the Yosemite photographs will be Opie’s tree stump ceramic sculptures, which have never been exhibited. Taken up by the artist over the past few years, sculpture has come to represent an extension of the physical process and chance outcomes that photography once did. In this regard, the sculptures have become an outlet for the hand of the artist formerly engaged in photographic development, now applied more forcibly in the creation of three-dimensional form. Displayed on a burned pedestal, the sculptures are grouped together to give the impression of a clearcut or burned forest. Fire as a motif and technique has become an emerging metaphor of choice for the artist; she recently debuted her first film, The Modernist, 2017, which centered on a fictional arsonist in Los Angeles. It is a means to comment on the combustible and tenuous nature of American society, but also to point out the regenerative potential of fire. Together, the photographs and sculptures merge the physicality shared between bodies and landscape, and hint at a larger framework for transformation.
Catherine Opie (b. 1961, Sandusky, OH; lives in Los Angeles) received a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1985, and an MFA from CalArts in 1988. Solo exhibitions of her work have been organized at Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo, Norway, 2017; Nova Southeastern University Art Museum, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 2017; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2016; Museum of Contemporary Art, Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles, 2016; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2016; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH, 2015; Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA, 2012; Socrates Sculpture Park, New York, 2012; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2011; Portland Art Museum, OR, 2010; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2008; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 2006, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2002; and the Saint Louis Art Museum, MO, 2000. Select group exhibitions featuring her work include Selections from the Permanent Collection: Catherine Opie and Sterling Ruby, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2017; Breaking News, Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2016–2017; A Slow Succession with Many Interruptions, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA, 2016–2017; Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2016; Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, Brooklyn Museum, NY, 2016; Perfect Likeness: Photography and Composition, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2015; Residue: The Persistence of the Real, Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada, 2015; America Is Hard to See, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2015; Storylines: Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2015; Unbound: Contemporary Art After Frida Kahlo, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 2014; and Role Models: Feminine Identity in Contemporary American Photography, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC, 2008. Her work is in numerous international public and private collections, including Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Miami Art Museum; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and the Tate, London.
Opie has received numerous awards and fellowships, including the Citibank Private Bank Emerging Artist Award, Washington University Freund Fellowship, CalArts Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, Larry Aldrich Award, San Francisco Art Institute President's Award for Excellence, and the United States Artist Fellowship. She has been a professor of fine art at UCLA since 2001 and serves on the board of directors of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the board of trustees of MOCA, Los Angeles.