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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hammer Museum: Catherine Opie - Extra Credit

These were just a few of the portraits featured in Catherine Opie's portraits exhibit at the Hammer Museum. As you can see, there's a certain similarity and uniformity to each portrait that almost makes you want to know about each person even more. Each portrait consists of either a rectangular or oval frame, with a black background and an illuminated face. Reading the pamphlet for the exhibit, it was interesting to find out that each individual was a personal friend of Opie's, each somehow involved in the arts. It seems to me that even though Opie knows each of her subjects intimately, she wanted their individual personalities to be rather masked, as each person has the same unknowable look. But at the same time, it is almost this blankness that invites the viewer to pause and stay for a moment with each image. The curator of the exhibit wrote about the way that our culture views a portrait, in the form of a selfie, with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Opie's portraits challenge the way that we look at portraiture, forcing one to consider what the representation in each image means. My favorite portrait is the one of performance artist Ron Athey, who is the man covered in tattoos. I felt as if his facial expression in combination with his appearance really challenges the viewer to attempt to enter and discover his world.

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