“Face to Face: Portraits of Artists by Tacita Dean, Brigitte Lacombe, and Catherine Opie” Exhibition

International Center of Photography

poster for “Face to Face: Portraits of Artists by Tacita Dean, Brigitte Lacombe, and Catherine Opie” Exhibition
[Image: Brigitte Lacombe "Patti Smith, New York, NY, 2014" © Brigitte Lacombe]

This event has ended.

The International Center of Photography (ICP) will exhibit Face to Face: Portraits of Artists by Tacita Dean, Brigitte Lacombe and Catherine Opie. Organized by renowned writer and curator Helen Molesworth, the exhibition presents portraits of luminaries in the arts by three of the most prominent portraitists of our time. Face to Face will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by ICP and MACK, London, with essays by Molesworth and writer and curator Jarrett Earnest.

Creating an atmosphere of conversations held just beyond the frame of the images, Face to Face features more than 50 photographs by Brigitte Lacombe and Catherine Opie, and two films by Tacita Dean, with bracing, intimate, and resonant portraits of compelling cultural figures including Maya Angelou, Richard Avedon, Louise Bourgeois, Joan Didion, David Hockney, Miranda July, Rick Owens, Martin Scorsese, Patti Smith, Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker, and John Waters, among others. The exhibition presents some of the often-overlapping subjects immortalized by Dean, Lacombe, and Opie and investigates the charged genre of portraiture, one that often carries a sense of intimacy and exposure simultaneously.

“These pictures and films offer us formality and intimacy, patience and curiosity, and the thrill of an unguarded moment,” said curator Helen Molesworth. “I see all three artists involved in making pictures that are not only in dialogue with their given subjects, but also with the history of the genre of portraiture and the medium of photography. Art is many things, but for artists it is a way of talking to each other through pictures. It’s a transhistorical game of stealing and borrowing techniques, paying homage to one another’s triumphs—a constant call and response.”

“ICP is pleased to collaborate with esteemed guest curator Helen Molesworth to bring this fascinating look at contemporary portraiture to New York audiences,” said David E. Little, executive director of ICP. “Face to Face is the first focused portraiture exhibition at ICP’s new downtown location at 79 Essex Street. The exhibition offers a unique opportunity to see three of the most accomplished imagemakers of our time approach the subject of portraiture from their distinctly different vantage points, broadening our understanding of contemporary lens-based work. Collaborating with Tacita Dean, Brigitte Lacombe, and Catherine Opie reflects ICP’s commitment to exhibiting imagemakers at the fore of visual culture today, and we are honored that Brigitte Lacombe’s first major presentation in a New York institution is here at ICP.”

Tacita Dean creates films that are studies of time and everyday life as it unfolds before the camera. Notably, she has produced a series of portraits of older artists, including Cy Twombly, Mario Merz, and Merce Cunningham. On view in Face to Face, Dean’s 16-minute film Portraits (2016) captures the artist David Hockney’s approach to art in his Los Angeles studio. The film opens with a shot of the artist standing with his back to the camera, smoking and reading a book. Watching him read and smoke, the viewer is witness to the artist’s working process, appreciating the small moments that make up an artist’s practice. In contrast, Dean’s One Hundred and Fifty Years of Painting (2021) records a conversation between the 99-year-old painter Luchita Hurtado and the 49-year-old artist Julie Mehretu; their combined ages inspire the film’s title.

Brigitte Lacombe’s oeuvre could be described as a who’s who of the second half of the 20th century. On view in Face to Face are a selection of Lacombe’s studio portraits and also portraits of artists taken in their own studios. In the catalogue for Face to Face Molesworth notes how intimate details catch the eye: “the slight gap between Hilton Als’s two front teeth, the way Joan Didion’s left eye is slightly higher than her right one, the sly almost-smile that pulls at the corner of Fran Lebowitz’s mouth.” She also has a long term project of shooting on director Martin Scorsese’s movie sets. Lacombe’s set pictures show artists at work, and her photos depict an ongoing portrait of the director over time, with on-set images from Gangs of New York, The Departed, and The Wolf of Wall Street, among other productions.

Catherine Opie is known for her early images of members of the LGBTQ community, using traditional portraiture to bring underrepresented people into the mainstream of contemporary culture. More recently she did a dedicated series of portraits of artists. Photographs by Opie in Face to Face span three decades, from 1993 to 2019, and include images of Justin Bond, Thelma Golden, Miranda July, Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, and Rick Owens among others. Often the sitter does not meet the gaze of the camera, such as the silhouetted view of Kara Walker or a shirtless Lawrence Weiner smoking a cigarette. The results are images of artists plunged into their own thoughts, both solitary, melancholic, and slightly magical.

As Molesworth notes, “Each of these artists has engaged portraiture—a genre of image-making as old as modernity itself—as a means of connecting themselves to other artists. The results are three bodies of work that play with the historical conventions of the genre while nibbling away at its edges.”

About Tacita Dean
Tacita Dean (b. 1965, Canterbury, England) works primarily in film. She lives and works in Berlin and Los Angeles, where she was the Artist in Residence at the Getty Research Institute in 2014-2015. Dean has been the recipient of numerous prizes including the Kurt Schwitters Prize in 2009; the Hugo Boss Prize at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 2006; and the Sixth Benesse Prize at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005. Solo exhibitions were recently held in 2022 at MUDAM, Luxembourg, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; in 2021 at Kunstmuseum Basel; in 2020 at EMMA - Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Espoo; in 2019 at the NY Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, and at the Serralves Museum, Porto; in 2018 at the Kunsthaus Bregenz, The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, as well as The Royal Academy of Arts, London, as part of a trilogy of exhibitions held in conjunction with the city’s National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery. Dean designed the sets and costumes for The Dante Project, a collaborative production with the Royal Ballet’s resident choreographer Wayne McGregor and conductor-composer Thomas Adés. Based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, the ballet premiered in October 2021 at the Royal Opera House in London. In 2011 Dean’s work FILM, a part of the Unilever Series of Tate Modern and shown in the Turbine Hall, marked the beginning of the campaign to preserve photochemical film.

About Brigitte Lacombe
Brigitte Lacombe (b. 1950, in Alès, France) is known for her influential and revelatory portraiture. For four decades she has created iconic and intimate photographs of many of the world’s most celebrated artists, actors, politicians and intellectuals. Her work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC; Phillips New York; Sotheby’s, London; Qatar Museums, Doha; Shanghai Center of Photography; The Museum of the Moving Image, New York; Cinémathèque Française, Paris; and Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin. Her books include Lacombe Anima | Persona (Steidl/Dangin, 2009), a retrospective book of photographs from 1975-2008; Lacombe Cinema | Theater (Schirmer/Mosel); Breakthrough Prize, vol. 1, 2012-2016 and Breakthrough Prize, vol. 2, 2017-2019, portraits of top scientists; and Forward 20 Years of TimesTalks, 2019. She is currently at work on a visual memoir. She received the Eisenstaedt Award for Travel Photography (2000), the Lifetime Achievement Award for Photography (Art Directors Club Hall of Fame, 2010), and the Lucie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Travel & Portraiture (2012). “Brigitte,” a documentary film by director Lynne Ramsay, commissioned by Miu Miu Women’s Tales, was shown at the Venice and New York Film Festivals in 2019. Her photography has appeared in publications around the world including Vanity Fair, GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, German Vogue, British Vogue, L’Uomo Vogue, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, The Financial Times Magazine, “M” Le Monde, Zeit Magazine, and others. Lacombe has worked on many film sets, as well as photographing major theater productions and fashion advertising campaigns. She lives in New York City.

About Catherine Opie
Catherine Opie (b. 1961, Sandusky, OH) is an artist working with photography, film, collage, and ceramics who lives and works in Los Angeles. Her work has been exhibited extensively throughout the United States and abroad and is held in over 50 major collections throughout the world. Opie was the Robert Mapplethorpe Resident in Photography at the American Academy in Rome for 2021. Opie was also a recipient of The Guggenheim Fellowship in 2019, The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art Medal in 2016, The Julius Shulman Excellence in Photography Award in 2013 and a United States Artists Fellowship in 2006. In September 2008, the Guggenheim Museum in New York opened a mid-career exhibition titled, Catherine Opie: American Photographer. She debuted her film, The Modernist, at Regen Projects, Los Angeles in 2018. Her first monograph, Catherine Opie, was published by Phaidon in 2021. Opie received a B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute, and an M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts in 1988. She holds the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Endowed Chair in Art at UCLA where she is a professor of Photography and also Chair of the Department of Art.

About Helen Molesworth, Curator of Face to Face
Helen Molesworth (b. 1966,Buffalo, NY) is a writer and a curator based in Los Angeles. Her new podcast “Death of an Artist: The Story of Ana Mendieta and Carl Andre” has just been released by Pushkin and Sony Entertainment. She also recently hosted a podcast series called “Recording Artists” with The Getty, and is the host of Program, streamed interviews with artists and writers hosted by the David Zwirner gallery. Her major museum exhibitions include: One Day at a Time: Manny Farber and Termite Art; Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957; Dance/Draw; This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s; Part Object Part Sculpture; and Work Ethic. She has organized monographic exhibitions of Ruth Asawa, Moyra Davey, Noah Davis, Louise Lawler, Steve Locke, Anna Maria Maiolino, Josiah McElheny, Kerry James Marshall, Catherine Opie, Amy Sillman, and Luc Tuymans. She is the author of numerous catalogue essays, and her writing has appeared in Artforum, Art Journal, Documents, and October. The recipient of the 2011 Bard Center for Curatorial Studies Award for Curatorial Excellence, in 2021 she received a Guggenheim Fellowship and in 2022 she was awarded The Clark Art Writing Prize.



from January 27, 2023 to May 01, 2023

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