Lehmann Maupin is pleased to present the gallery’s debut solo exhibition for Los Angeles-based photographer Catherine Opie. For the occasion, two concurrent exhibitions will be on view at the gallery’s Chelsea and Lower East Side locations, featuring new work by Opie that underscores her on-going dialogue with the history of photography and constructs of identity, both integral aspects of her practice. The artist will be present for opening receptions at both galleries on Thursday, January 14 from 6-8PM.
Opie gained notoriety in the 1990s with her series of portraits depicting gay, lesbian, and transgender sitters, heralded as groundbreaking during the height of the polarizing “culture wars.” Since then, Opie has traveled extensively, documenting contemporary American life and geographical locations through the photographing of subjects often drawn from her friends, family, and peers. With a particular focus on an examination of subculture communities, Opie’s photographs unite current day politics and societal structures with a classical art aesthetic, culminating in a body of work that expands upon the tradition of documentary photography as well as the greater art historical canon.
Portraits and Landscapes, on view at 536 West 22nd Street, encompasses recent formal portraits and abstract landscapes that are inspired by the genres of European portraiture and American landscape photography. Utilizing the classical technique of chiaroscuro, Opie’s subjects—including culturally significant figures such as fashion designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, artist Kara Walker, and director John Waters—are posed in front of a black drop cloth and theatrically lit, intimately dramatizing the details of the face and body. She emphasizes their unique characteristics while also suggesting an allegorical dimension beyond their individual identity. Interspersed amongst these commanding portraits are abstract landscapes that defy any recognition of their geographical location. Capturing pinnacles of the American landscape, Opie reduces the images to blurred light and elementary abstract form to elicit visceral reactions that resonate with oblivion, the sublime, and the unknown. The resulting photographs transcend the ubiquity that typically surrounds depictions of these natural wonders reminiscent of the American Pictorialist style, which sought to not simply capture, but to create a unique photographic image.
The exhibition at 201 Chrystie Street, 700 Nimes Road, features the artist’s portfolio of 50 photographs documenting the interiors and belongings of the late Elizabeth Taylor. The actress, who rarely permitted photographs to be taken inside her home, allowed Opie unprecedented access to capture what would become among the last portraits of the legendary star. Beginning in 2010 and working over a period of six months, Opie composed an intimate “indirect portrait” through Taylor’s home and possessions. Drawing inspiration from William Eggleston’s Graceland (1984), a portfolio of the late Elvis Presley’s home, Opie presents an endearing and intimate document of a departed American icon. Coinciding with her exhibition at Lehmann Maupin, a selection from the portfolio will be exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles’s Pacific Design Center venue in West Hollywood, California before traveling to several museums throughout the United States.
Opie’s images from the portfolio are the subject of a new book published by DelMonico Books • Prestel, also entitled 700 Nimes Road, which includes essays by Ingrid Sichy and Hilton Als. A book signing by the artist will take place on Saturday, January 16 at 201 Chrystie Street from 2-4PM.
The artist has two additional upcoming Los Angeles-based projects: an exhibition of portraits at the Hammer Museum on view from January 30-May 22, 2016; and a commission by the General Services Administration to create a site-specific installation for the Los Angeles Federal Courthouse, to be unveiled in June 2016. Opie’s work will also be the subject of a retrospective exhibition at Henie Onstad Centre, Oslo opening in September 2017.
Born in 1961 in Sandusky, Ohio, Catherine Opie received a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and an MFA from CalArts. Since 2001 she has been a Professor of Fine Art at UCLA. Opie has been the subject of numerous museum exhibitions including Portraits and Landscapes, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus (2015); Empty and Full, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2011); Figure and Landscape, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2010); American Photographer, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2008); and Skyways and Icehouses, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2002). Opie has been recognized with honors including the Citibank Private Bank Emerging Artist Award, Washington University’s Freund Fellowship in St. Louis, CalArts Alpert Award in the Arts, Larry Aldrich Award, San Francisco Art Institute President's Award for Excellence, and a United States Artist Fellowship. Opie’s work is included in major public collections including Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Pérez Art Museum Miami; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and the Tate, London. The artist lives and works in Los Angeles.
Press release courtesy Lehmann Maupin.
The year has had a banner beginning for Catherine Opie. She started the year with openings at Lehmann Maupin's two spaces in New York. By the end of just January, she had another set of openings, in Los Angeles at MOCA Pacific Design Center and the Hammer Museum. The exhibitions spark a dialogue about portraiture from different perspectives, with...