Personality: Contemporary Portraiture
A curated international photography exhibition
March 11 – April 3, 2021 newsletter
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Portraiture emerged as one of the most prominent genres of depictive media early in the history of the visual arts, and the tacit or explicit rules, conventions and cultural expectations have always influenced the ways by which artists approached the genre. Photography is no exception; numerous different and characteristic styles of portraiture emerged throughout the history of the medium. Today we live in an exciting new era for portraiture. There has never been a time in human history when so many portraits and self-portraits were produced day after day as in the era of digital technologies. Photographers have responded to the cultural, social and technological changes by reinterpreting the age-old genre of portraiture, and it is always an exciting and rewarding task to organize an exhibition for some of the recent achievements in the field.
Lola Wallace: With green apple
Ellen Friedlander: Portrait of C
Vicky Martin: She Done Him Wrong
Eiji Yamamoto: Psychological distance no. 5
Mildred Alpern (New York, NY, USA), Elizabeth Bailey (Los Angeles, CA, USA), Egor Beketov (Pisek, Czech Republic), Estela Bento (Porto, Portugal), Peter Bjerg (Copenhagen, Denmark), Derek Brown (Bangkok, Thailand), Dwayne Bryk (Montreal, QC, Canada), Catherine Caddigan (Randolph, MA, USA), Avarino Caracò (Palazzolo Acreide, Italy), Jenny Chernansky (New Orleans, LA, USA), Ron Cooper (Greenwood Village, CO, USA), David Czernobilsky (Herzliya, Israel), Sabrina D’Alonzo (Lugano, Switzerland), Dorie Dahlberg (Long Branch, NJ, USA), Jason Dailey (Lawrence, KS, USA), Nika De Carlo (New York, NY, USA), Ludovica De Santis (Milan, Italy), Paul Delpani (Vienna, Austria), Peter Devenyi (Ottawa, Canada), Mark A. Dierker (Dubuque, IA, USA), David Finestein (New York, NY, USA), Sari Fried-Fiori (Katy, TX, USA), Ellen Friedlander (Los Angeles, CA, USA), László Gálos (Salgótarján, Hungary), Lara Genovese (London, UK), Paula Haapalahti (Vantaa, Finland), Kip Harris (Indian Harbour, Nova Scotia, Canada), Lucilla Incarbone (Venegono Inferiore, Italy), Kary Janousek (Fargo, ND, USA), Nino Khundadze (Tbilisi, Georgia), Cindy Konits (Owings Mills, MD, USA), John Kosmer (Fly Creek, NY, USA), Aharon Kritzer (Shohm, Israel), Ladka Kurzrock (Sydney, NSW, Australia), Heather Joy Layton (Huntington Beach, CA, USA), Steve Lease (Doylestown, PA, USA), Stefanie Lebowski (Paris, France), Lodiza LePore (Bennington, VT, USA), Angela Lucari (Rome, Italy), Michelle Luke (Kalispell, MT, USA), Vicky Martin (Staffordshire, UK), Mariana Melendrez (Calexico, CA, USA), Claudia Missailidis (Niterói, Brazil), Atsushi Momoi (Tokyo, Japan), Cynthia Anderson Morgan (Atlanta, GA, USA), Kat Moser (Snowmass, CO, USA), Clark Most (Midland, MI, USA), Satoko Nishioka (Tokyo, Japan), Juergen Pawlik (Woerthsee, Germany), GiBi Peluffo (Albisola Superiore, Italy), Joseph Rovegno (New York, NY, USA), Marian Rubin (Montclair, NJ, USA), Angus Stewart (London, UK), Lola Wallace (Portland, OR, USA), Georg Worecki (Daleiden, Germany), Eiji Yamamoto (Saarbruecken, Germany), Igor Zusev (Seattle, WA, USA)
Please click on the names to see contact information (website or e-mail) where available.
Personality: Contemporary Portraiture
Depicting persons is a time-honoured and timeless genre in the visual arts, and photography naturally inherited many of the traditions of portraiture from painting and the graphic arts. Yet photography was also ready to renew the received means of depiction and reformulated them according to the novel possibilities of the new medium.
Lola Wallace’s With green apple is the curator’s choice of the exhibition for its strong photographic reformulation of some of the well-known roots of portraiture. The soft, warm colour of the background and most of the image immediately reminds us of the visual atmosphere of the Renaissance portraits. The depiction of not only the face but the person from the waist up is also characteristic of many of those paintings. After this initial recognition of the genre and some of its historical antecedents, however, we can start to notice the differences, the interesting departures from those received means of expression. One of the clearest differences can be found in the pronounced lines and shapes of Wallace’s image, as opposed to the soft, sfumato transitions between the shapes and colours of the Renaissance portraits. Notice that this is certainly not a difference between painting and photographs, as both mediums may present images in either way. Another important difference is that while Renaissance paintings typically show their subjects covered up to their neck, Wallace presents bare shoulders. Finally, the subdued colours of the image are markedly broken by the bright colours of the headscarf and the apple. The result is that the recognisable traditions of the Renaissance are reformulated in a brave, modern portrayal of a confident 21st-century woman.
Honourable mention Portrait of C by Ellen Friedlander is a beautiful photographic metaphor for the rich layers of a personality. The combination of the nude and the portraiture genres allows for the presentation of a person without her protective outer layers. Without such a cover, the different aspects of her inner self are more forcefully portrayed by the superimposed images. Vicky Martin’s She Done Him Wrong is a still image from a fictive shooting of a movie. The person is portrayed here without us being allowed to see her face. Therefore, we must rely for our interpretation on the context of the setting of the scene, the title of the fictive movie, her costume, blond hair, and red lips. It might be surprising to realise just how much we may learn from all this about a fictive and a real personality. The third honourable mention has been given to Psychological Distance No. 5 by Eiji Yamamoto. The compositional structure of the image is based on the lines of the arms and legs of the woman, all leading up to her face and the gaze of her eyes. Through the eyes we begin to understand and contemplate the hints about her life, thoughts, wishes and passions.
Peter Bjerg’s Maja’s Mirror (5) extends portraiture to the quiet, intimate space and activity of the women in the photograph. Alienation by Ludovica De Santis relies on photography’s capacity to depict physical reality so as to open a window to the depths of psychological reality. Sari Fried-Fiori’s Tim No. 3 shows us all the small details of her subject’s face without any attempt to cover the marks of time, presenting the face in a uniquely balanced geometrical composition. In Spotless Lucilla Incarbone departs from the usual baby photo by capturing a rarely observable, contemplative moment of her young subject. Quarantined in The Bathroom Mirror by John Kosmer reflects on our current experiences through the portrayal of his face from different perspectives but doubly enclosed. Ladka Kurzrock’s Dreamy takes us far away from our current concerns, empathising with the unknown dreams of the woman. Autoportrait — Night in Car by Michelle Luke surprises us with a strong compositional contrast between the rigid geometrical framing lines and the curvy shapes of the face. Juergen Pawlik’s Lina No. 3 transforms the face of a person into an imagined character that makes us wonder about the different personalities hidden within ourselves.
It is a joy to realise how lively portraiture is in the medium of photography today. Creative reinterpretations and reformulations of this classical genre show us that there are always new approaches worthy of our attention.