Photographers and Artists, “Face to Face”

The expression “face to face” indicates equally intimacy and confrontation, a reckoning of types, whatever its objective or tone. At present, at the Intercontinental Heart of Pictures, the phrase serves as the properly expansive title for a 3-man or woman exhibition whose target is the charmed and billed phenomenon of the artist portrait. The generous range of will work, curated by Helen Molesworth, characteristics contributions from the artist-filmmaker Tacita Dean and the photographers Brigitte Lacombe and Catherine Opie. The formidable subjects—including Richard Avedon, Maya Angelou, John Waters, and Patti Smith—are them selves accustomed to keeping the reins of representation, which is not to say that they’re not recreation, at minimum for a minute, to permit go. Nevertheless, in truth of the matter, the nuance and depth of the operate on view speak more of engagement than of surrender.

“Kerry,” 2017.Photograph by Catherine Opie / Courtesy Regen Initiatives / Lehmann Maupin / Thomas Dane Gallery

The operates, primarily large-scale, are arranged in close proximity—creating some thing like an imaginary conference of the minds amid likenesses—and underscored by wall-label texts that include things like quotations from the topics reflecting on their personal strategies or self-conceptions, like believed bubbles. “Writing is the act of indicating I, of imposing oneself on other men and women . . . It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act,” Joan Didion asserts in the textual content accompanying Lacombe’s frontal black-and-white impression of the creator with a broad-eyed gaze, her fingers lifted to her mouth, as while in gasping reaction to a thing the photographer has just explained. “The problem is often how to deal with the way gentle falls on a black item without letting it to destroy the kind, but rather merely reveal it,” the smiling painter Kerry James Marshall muses in the label for Opie’s “Kerry,” from 2017, in which Marshall emerges from a black background—or dissolves into it. And phrases are integral to Dean’s piece “One Hundred and Fifty Decades of Painting,” from 2021, a looping movie that lingers on the painters Luchita Hurtado and Julie Mehretu as they sit talking. It is, maybe, an apt emblem for “Face to Face.” Taken as a whole, the display is an prolonged conversation—conspiratorially murmuring, fruitfully clashing—across time and house.

The artists’ topics also overlap. David Hockney appears, in his studio, in just one of Dean’s uneventful, whirring projections (the 16-mm. films are not transferred to online video) and also in just one of Opie’s studio pictures, part of a extensive-jogging portrait sequence of subjects set in opposition to moody, black backgrounds. Kara Walker is portrayed in profile by equally Opie and Lacombe, in related compositions. In every graphic, Walker bears around the identical expression, but, in Opie’s velvety gloom, she is, for every Marshall, basically discovered. Lacombe’s eyesight of Walker is in another way beautiful—amply lit and forthright.

Maria Lewis

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