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Portraits of Artists at Staley-Wise Gallery

Art Scene

Portraits of Artists at Staley-Wise Gallery

In the age of the social media selfie, the exhibition PORTRAITS OF ARTISTS: Photographs 1926 – 2008 explores the public persona of legendary artists from the vantage point of the collaborative portrait, one made between a photographer and a sitter. In most cases, visual artists—photographers, painters, sculptors—are known for their work, rather than their own personhood. This exhibition asks an often-overlooked question: What do artists look like and how are they recorded?                  

Abe Frajndlich, Cindy Sherman Combing Blond Wig, Walker Street Studio, April, 1987

© Abe Frajndlich / Courtesy Staley-Wise Gallery, New York

Most people have at least a vague sense of Andy Warhol, possibly the most visually recognizable artist in the world. And yes, he is included in this exhibition, along with a few widely familiar figures, such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Cindy Sherman.

IMAGE 2: David LaChapelle, Most Perfect Work II (Kehinde Wiley), 2005

© David LaChapelle / Courtesy Staley-Wise Gallery, New York

However, many other highly regarded artists (both deceased and alive), who—depending on your cultural milieu—you may or may not recognize, are also included: Ruth Asawa, Louise Bourgeois, Constantin Brâncuși, Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dalí, Willem de Kooning, Jean Dubuffet, William Edmondson, Tracey Emin, Viola Frey, Frank Gehry, Gilbert & George, Alberto Giacometti, Françoise Gilot, Chaim Gross, David Hockney, Evelyn Hofer, Edward Hopper, Jasper Johns, Alex Katz, Fernand Léger, Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Liberman, Jacques Lipchitz, Aristide Maillol, Brice Marden, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Robert Motherwell, Isamu Noguchi, Georgia O’Keeffe, Nam June Paik, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Gloria Vanderbilt, Andy Warhol, Max Weber, Ai Weiwei, Kehinde Wiley, Andrew Wyeth, and Tang Zhigang.

IMAGE 3: Susan Wood, David Hockney, 1980

© Susan Wood / Courtesy Staley-Wise Gallery, New York

There are some obvious photographer and sitter pairings that make sense due to a similarity in subject and style, such as David LaChapelle’s portrait of painter Kehinde Wiley (the creator of Barack Obama’s presidential portrait). LaChapelle’s fashion photography is well matched with Wiley’s ornate, patterned and stylized juxtaposition of contemporary portraiture and art historical painting. While this work plays with the subject/artist as a performer, in this case, Wiley, embodying all the stereotypes of successful black manhood through style of dress and props, other works feature the artist with their work.

Denis Piel, Jasper Johns, 1984

© Denis Piel / Courtesy Staley-Wise Gallery, New York

A portrait by Susan Wood of a young David Hockney captures the artist decked out in a green shirt and pants, a green baseball hat with the bill flipped up, and in one green and one red Converse high top sneaker. The loud colors of one of his large-scale paintings, featuring a few subjects in profile walking down a street, effectively insert the artist into his own imaginary landscape. While many of the portraits on view reveal the playful mind of an artist, others are more formal, suggesting a desire to be taken seriously by the public, a variety of imagery not unlike what we see on the internet every day.

PORTRAITS OF ARTISTS: Photographs 1926 – 2008 is on view at Staley-Wise through December 1, 2018.