Go See: Catherine Opie’s Midcareer Survey at Guggeinheim Museum, New York, through January 7, 2009

October 27th, 2008

Self Portrait / Cutting (1993) by Catherine Opie
Self Portrait / Cutting (1993) by Catherine Opie

The Guggenheim Museum on Manhattan’s Upper East Side is currently featuring a comprehensive midcareer survey of Catherine Opie’s work, which blends high formalism with unconventional subjects, often from society’s margins. The exhibition encompasses most of the photographer’s output, which ranges from portraiture to urban landscape photography, and includes more than 200 works. Opie first came to prominence after ‘Being and Having’ (1991) and ‘Portraits’ (1993-1997), shows that focused on queer communities and culture in San Francisco and Los Angeles, with many of the heavily pierced and tattooed sitters coming from the queer artist and sadomasochist subcultures.  The artist also gave her subjects exaggerated facial hair to make their gender even more opaque and transmutable, exposing the subjectivity of sexual and gender ideology.

Guggenheim Museum: Catherine Opie: American Photographer
Regen Projects: Catherine Opie
A Retrospective of Many Artists, All of Them One Woman
[New York Times]
Shock and awe of another age [Financial Times]
Doug McClemont on Catherine Opie at the Guggenheim [Saatchi Online]
The AI Interview: Catherine Opie [ArtInfo]
Dykes! Tutus! Off-ramps! The Guggenheim Mounts a Catherine Opie Retrospective [Village Voice]

Jake (1991) by Catherine Opie
Jake (1991) by Catherine Opie, via Guggenheim Museum

Frankie (1995) by Catherine Opie
Frankie (1995) by Catherine Opie, via Guggenheim Museum

While Opie has continued to explore queer identity in America, especially in California, subsequent work has explored physical structures and landscapes, notions of community and identity, and the interaction between all four of those elements. Opie serves as both provocateur (through her subjects, and the discussions and questions they engender) and classicist (given the formal qualities of her photography, which largely adhere to many classical aesthetic principles). Her subjects have included queer families across America, surfers in Malibu, icehouse fishers in Alaska, and the Los Angeles Freeway system. The photographer is currently focused on portraits of high school football players across the country, examining notions of individuality, camaraderie and competitiveness among contemporary youth.  Catherine Opie is a tenured professor at UCLA, and is currently represented by Regen Projects, which also sells the works of Richard Prince, Wolfgang Tillmans, Anish Kapoor, Raymond Pettibon, Elizabeth Peyton, and a number of prominent contemporary artists.

Oliver in a Tutu (2004) by Catherine Opie
Oliver in a Tutu (2004) by Catherine Opie, via Guggenheim Museum

Abandoned TV (2005) by Catherine Opie
Abandoned TV (2005) by Catherine Opie, via Guggenheim Museum


Untitled #3 (Icehouses) (2001) by Catherine Opie
Untitled #3 (Icehouses) (2001) by Catherine Opie

Untitled #9 (Surfers) (2003) by Catherine Opie
Untitled #9 (Surfers) (2003) by Catherine Opie, via the Guggenheim Museum

CATHERINE OPIE: AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER
Through January 7, 2009
Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Avenue (at 89th Street)
New York, NY