New York, December 8, 2015—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 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.