Face to Face
15 May through June 26
Opening Reception 15 May from six to eight pm
Taking a portrait involves a certain intimacy between an artist, a subject, and the camera. The success of the
act requires this momentary affinity. What we see in a portrait documents a particular moment of congress
between subject and artist -an intention vivified by the closure of the lens, mediated into realization. Portraits
are images of what happened to have endured of these encounters.
Face to Face highlights varying methods of portraiture as embodied by select practitioners of the genre. The
multiple perspectives seen in the exhibition present this form as a continuing well-source of artistic interest,
utilized throughout the modern and contemporary eras in a surprising number of pictorial tangents. Bridged
by human imposition into a singular frieze of life, the images in Face to Face display a semaphoric connection
to one another as if notes sharing a palimpsest, each their own curious variation upon a resident, familiar
While revealing the manifold paths toward a specific subject matter within a portrait, the stylistic differences
between images highlight each artist’s latent concerns: Martin Parr’s coloristic intensity is paradoxically used
to outline a scene of immeasurable, upper-class boredom; Manuel Alvarez Bravo’s deadpan shot of Isabel Villaseñor, the post-revolutionary ingénue, both places her upon a pedestal (the camera slightly below eye level)
and examines her as a sylph, the fragilities of a 24 year old captured in the format of a pedestrian mugshot: Diane Arbus captures an infant and an older woman –from innocence to wilted experience- with the same
force of vision.
In other works, the background intimates the presence of the subject. The female form in William Eggleston’s
Untitled, 1971 from Dust Bells melds into her scene, an amorphous figure defined by the contours of the brilliant,
yellow duvet spreading towards the foreground. Summer Mann’s painting of a recovered photo of a period
couple hints of a silent transgression, a psychology embedded in the unfiltered darkness behind them, Andrew
Bush’s Angelyne, 1997, a portrait of the ubiquitous Los Angeles celebrity-monger, is at once a binary comment
about the plasticity of its subject as it is a trope on a society able to produce someone willing to drive a bright
pink Corvette. By contrast, Dorothea Lange’s image of a young woman in Manhattan rests as a quiet counterpoise:
she glances away from us to the open street, a simple, complicit moment of turning her back to see what
we see. Slightly tense, or caught in media res, an empathic gesture is framed. Like an instant of seeing a snapshot
that once meant something more, there is an amazement to it, “…to see, as though reflected in streaming
windowpanes, the look of others through their own eyes.” ¹
Face to Face will be on view from 15 May through 26 June 2010.
ROSEGALLERY is located in the Bergamot Station Arts Center at 2525 Michigan Avenue – G5, Santa Monica, CA 90404.
By Jim McKinniss