Currently on view at Gladstone Gallery’s 24th st location is “Girlfriends,” by Catherine Opie. The works exhibited are a play on Richard Prince’s biker girlfriends and seek to explore the nature of “butch-dyke” identity. “An ode” to her former life, before domesticity and motherhood, Opie’s new works refer back to the subject matter that propelled her into the limelight in the early 1990s: her friends and partners in the gay, lesbian, and trans leather community. This return to the artist’s roots is highlighted by the inclusion of a series of small black-and-white portraits of androgynous young women that Opie made as a freshman in the early ’90s and has since kept to herself.
More text, images and related links after the jump….
Opie’s portraits of the 1990s featured her tattooed, pierced and sexually ambiguous circle of friends – many of whom associated with the sadomasochist leather subculture in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Exhibited at the 1995 Whitney Biennial, the series delivered a jolt to the mannerly art-world and were especially destructive to the sacred ground of identity politics. And so, while staying true to her interest in issues of identity and community, the artist sought-out less polarizing subjects: she photographed surfers in Malibu, ice houses in Minnesota, city skylines, California highways and even high school Football players. Fifteen years later, in the age of youtube and reality television, when sexual lives of every variation are lived in the public sphere hence, Opie’s portraits were exhibited at her mid-career survey at the Guggenheim in 2008 to a much milder response. With this reaction in mind, Opie’s portraits have returned along with many of her past subjects – now even more tattooed, more transgendered.
As well as friends and partners who have appeared in her work throughout the years Opie’s new series tenderly depicts a number of public figures such as k.d. lang, a leathered-up Jenny Shimizu and “The L Word” star Kate Moenning. Made up of both carefully composed studio shots, as well as more impromptu moments, these works have a diaristic feel in which mementos of desire become stilled with beautiful precision. These two distinct aspects of the “Girlfriends” series coalesce to create a portrait of the photographer herself—an intimate view into the relationships and individuals that structure both affective and physical intimacy as a buttress of selfhood.
Artifacts | Catherine Opie’s ‘Girlfriends’ [NY Times]
Catherine Opie – Interview by Amy Kellner [VICE]
New Work by Catherine Opie [Beautiful Decay]
Photo Gallery: Catherine Opie’s Girlfriends [Flavorwire]
Catherine Opie – Gladstone Gallery [ArtForum]