Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Catherine Opie's "Portraits"
Cathrine Opie's “Portraits" is displayed at the Hammer Museum in it’s own small ovular room. It is separated in what feels like 3 distinct sections. Every image but one felt hyper-visible, with extreme picture quality and a dark background that seemed to bring the focus to the illuminate person in every portrait. The picture above is the only portrait in the collection to show no part of the individual face. Yet, me and a friend where stuck reading the image and her individuality for 10 solid minutes. My friend made the comment that “Her hands become her face” and in that statement I began to read the cues of here hand the way I would read the cues of someones face. The strength and ‘worn’ quality the hands possessed implied an intensity of experience, whether in a literal labor sense of just in active use. Being two dancers looking at a portrait of an assumed woman putting her hair up I suggested she looked like a ballet instructor putting up her hair before a lesson, a story that seemed to justify her strong hands and articulate fingers. It is interesting seeing Opie’s work in this context. The last portrait I saw of Opie’s was in the Whitney Museum in New York City, which is now on exhibit at MOCA. The constructed nature of Catherine Opie's, "Self-Portrait/Cutting," 1993 felt so different from the “Portraits” exhibit at the Hammer. It is interesting how she can build layers in an individual in “Portraits” and yet simultaneously abstract her body to build layers in ideology and message in Self-Portrait/Cutting” show her expansive nature as an artist.