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b. 1961, USA

Catherine Opie Biography

Catherine Opie is an American photographer best known for her portrayal of fringe facets of contemporary American life. Initially inspired by the documentary work of Lewis Hine (1874–1940), who used his camera to expose the plight of child labourers, Opie has worked with a diverse range of communities including lesbian families, sadomasochists, football players and surfers. Despite the seeming disparity of these groups, Opie’s oeuvre is cohesive in its effort to examine society’s perception of the marginalised and foster a new sense of intimacy and community.

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Throughout her career, Opie has frequently drawn from her immediate surroundings—including her family and friends—to respond to larger social discourses. Reacting against the homophobic campaigns of the 1990s led by Jesse Helms, Opie depicted her gay and lesbian friends in Los Angeles in 'Being and Having' (1991) and 'Portraits' (1993–1997). Through vibrant colours and formal compositions that bring to mind historic painters like Hans Holbein (c 1497–1543), Opie has portrayed the otherwise denigrated members of the queer community as dignified individuals. 

Of her numerous series, however, Opie is perhaps most remembered for her provocative self-portraits. Self-Portrait/Cutting (1993) and Self-Portrait/Pervert (1994), both exhibited at the 1995 Whitney Biennial, depict the artist at a time when she was involved in the leather community. In these photographs, Opie’s torso appears naked and her face anonymous, turned away from the camera or hidden underneath a leather mask. Drawings cut into her skin accompany her body in both images: one of a lesbian couple and the other of the word ‘Pervert’. The two images express the artist’s simultaneous desire for a family and her identity as a queer participant in sadomasochism. Opie’s self-portraits were a callout to the larger gay community, who she felt undervalued the leather community. In her striking declaration of self, Opie demanded that society reconsider its perception of ‘outsiders’.

A controversial figure in her early days, Opie has now come to enjoy critical success. Born in Ohio, she completed her studies in California, receiving a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1985 and an MFA from California Institute of the Arts in 1988. Since then, the artist has lived and worked in Los Angeles, where she has become a prominent local fixture: in 2001, she began teaching at University of California, Los Angeles, and she also is a board member at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Since her solo debut in 1991, Opie has exhibited widely in the United States, Europe and Japan. 

In 2008, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York devoted four floors to a mid-career survey of her work, entitled Catherine Opie: American Photographer. Opie has received the President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Women’s Caucus for Art (2009) and been the recipient of a United States Artists Fellowship (2006), the Larry Aldrich Award (2004), the Washington University Freund Fellowship (1999) and the Citibank Private Bank Emerging Artist Award (1997).

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2017

Catherine Opie Featured Artworks

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Untitled #7 by Catherine Opie contemporary artwork
Catherine OpieUntitled #7, 2012Pigment print
101.6 x 152.4 cm
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
Rocco by Catherine Opie contemporary artwork
Catherine OpieRocco, 2012Pigment print
127 x 97.5 cm
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
Untitled #1 (Swamps) by Catherine Opie contemporary artwork
Catherine OpieUntitled #1 (Swamps), 2019Pigment print
40 x 60 inches
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
Untitled #2 (Swamps) by Catherine Opie contemporary artwork
Catherine OpieUntitled #2 (Swamps), 2019Pigment print
40 x 60 inches
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
Untitled #3 (Swamps) by Catherine Opie contemporary artwork
Catherine OpieUntitled #3 (Swamps), 2019Pigment print
40 x 60 inches
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
Stump #7 by Catherine Opie contemporary artwork
Catherine OpieStump #7, 2015Black mountain clay
13.3 x 10.8 x 16.9 cm
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
Stump Fire #1 by Catherine Opie contemporary artwork
Catherine OpieStump Fire #1, 2015Pigment print
61 x 45.7 cm
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
Tree by Catherine Opie contemporary artwork
Catherine OpieTree, 2015Pigment print
114.3 x 76.2 cm
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery

Catherine Opie Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Haptic Narrative - The Aspen Edition at Lehmann Maupin, New York
Closed
8 August–15 September 2020 Group Exhibition Haptic Narrative - The Aspen Edition 535 East Hyman Ave, Aspen536 West 22nd Street, New York
Contemporary art exhibition, Catherine Opie, Rhetorical Landscapes at Lehmann Maupin, New York
Closed
6 July–26 September 2020 Catherine Opie Rhetorical Landscapes Lehmann Maupin, 501 West 24th St, New York501 West 24th Street, New York
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, be/longing at Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong
Closed
26 June–15 August 2020 Group Exhibition be/longing Lehmann Maupin, Hong KongHong Kong

Catherine Opie Represented By

Lehmann Maupin contemporary art gallery in 536 West 22nd Street, New York, USA Lehmann Maupin New York, Hong Kong, London, Seoul

Catherine Opie In Ocula Magazine

Ten Decades, Nine Works From Art Basel's OVR:20c Ocula News Ten Decades, Nine Works From Art Basel's OVR:20c London, 27 October 2020

The digital showcase of 20th century art takes place from 28–31 October.

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Frieze New York Viewing Room Sales Exceed Expectations Ocula News Frieze New York Viewing Room Sales Exceed Expectations New York, 8 May 2020

Galleries have reported stronger than anticipated sales at Frieze New York's Viewing Rooms, which opened to VIPs on 6 May. The online event, initiated after the physical fair was cancelled due to COVID-19, opens to the public from 8-15 May.

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Catherine Opie Ocula Conversation Catherine Opie By Elliat Albrecht, Hong Kong

It's not a whole lot of fun to be an American right now.

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Catherine Opie In Related Press

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Catherine Opie at Lehmann Maupin Related Press Catherine Opie at Lehmann Maupin 1 February 2019, Art in America

A paranoiac's map of doomsday Los Angeles was the opening salvo in Catherine Opie's exhibition The Modernist. Declaring a new, experimental direction for the artist, the five-by-eight-foot collage combined photographs of the city's iconic midcentury architecture with ominous newspaper clippings and frenetic, hand-drawn flames.

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‘We Are Family’: Aperture Fetes Agnes and Catherine Gund, Deborah Willis and Hank Willis Thomas, Catherine Opie at Fall Gala Related Press ‘We Are Family’: Aperture Fetes Agnes and Catherine Gund, Deborah Willis and Hank Willis Thomas, Catherine Opie at Fall Gala 5 November 2018, ARTnews

Last week, during the Aperture Foundation's fall gala at a cavernous space in New York's Chelsea neighborhood, Marilyn Minter turned to Catherine Opie while the two artists stood onstage together, and said, "I wish you would adopt me." Opie, not missing a beat, deadpanned back, "Can I swaddle you, then?"

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Beauty and Disunity in Two Visions of the United States Related Press Beauty and Disunity in Two Visions of the United States 20 April 2018, Hyperallergic

A nation is a strange, abstracted construction: an aggregate of people, most of whom will never meet each other, who are nevertheless understood to be fellow citizens — that is, collaborators in some shared political project. American Landscape, on view at Lehmann Maupin gallery until May 5, presents two contradictory visions of the United...

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Catherine Opie: Portraits and Landscapes at Thomas Dane Gallery Related Press Catherine Opie: Portraits and Landscapes at Thomas Dane Gallery 3 November 2017, Contemporary Art Space

American photographer Catherine Opie shot to prominence in the early 1990s with a spectacular body of studio portraits of gay, lesbian and transgender women and men drawn from her circle of fellow artists and intimates in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Her practice, sometimes described as 'social portraiture', spans across portraits, seascapes...

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