“Portraits” Exhibition

Skarstedt Gallery

poster for “Portraits” Exhibition

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Skarstedt presents Portraits, an exhibition of paintings, photographs and works on paper by twenty-two artists over a fifty-five year period. This exhibition explores the evolution of the role the portrait has played in society and artists’ unique approach to the genre.

During the revival of lifelike portraiture in the fifteenth century, portraits were an elite privilege, meant to represent the sitter’s physical attributes while also conveying social status. The traditional portrait also relied on a standard pose, which defined the word in the Oxford English Dictionary: “A painting, drawing, photograph or engraving of a person, especially one depicting only the face or head or shoulders.” Portraits explores this definition and pushes its boundaries, displaying the multiple and wide-ranging ways in which artists have explored and exploited the genre.

Utilizing portraiture as a framework, George Condo gives a humble subject a monumental presence in Old Man Portrait (2011). While conveying slightly grotesque features, Condo captures the image of this man in a formal manner while exploiting the scale of traditional portraits. Ragged and craggily with only a wisp of white hair on the back of his head, the old man is ironically portrayed with a distinguished presence.

Throughout her career, Cindy Sherman has pushed the definition of self-portraiture by photographing herself in a variety of personas, blurring the roles of sitter and artist while investigating female stereotypes and identity. In Sherman’s Untitled #138 (1984), the artist critiques the clichés of the fashion industry, introducing a woman with disheveled hair, a psychotic grin, and with closer inspection, blood on her hands. With her unsettling model, Sherman uses the portrait genre to craft a caricature of the codified beauty celebrated in fashion advertisements.

Also interested in the implications of female representation in advertising, Barbara Kruger enhances the content of her portraits by introducing text. In Untitled (Fate), 2001/2006, Kruger zooms in on a portrait of a Marilyn Monroe type and superimposes the word “FATE” through the center of the composition. While Monroe, a symbol of modern femininity, is the subject of countless portraits, most notably Andy Warhol’s iconic works, Kruger moves beyond precedents by involving a range of meaning through text. The artist introduces an essential strategy in advertising, the combination of images and language used to provoke emotion from the viewer. Particularly in today’s social media driven culture, Kruger’s text-associated portraits have attained a new level of relevancy.

Exhibited artists include Georg Baselitz, Yi Chen, George Condo, John Coplans, Eric Fischl, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jonathan Meese, Albert Oehlen, Paulina Olowska, Richard Prince, David Salle, Thomas Schütte, Cindy Sherman, Rosemarie Trockel, Nicola Tyson, Paloma Varga Weisz, and Andy Warhol.


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