The Portrait:  an open reading

26 OCTOBER, 2017 - 5 JANUARY, 2018 

Opening Reception Thursday, October 26, 2017

Guy Pène du Bois, Girl in Yellow Evening Dress, ca. 1942

Guy Pène du Bois, Girl in Yellow Evening Dress, ca. 1942

511 Gallery is pleased to present The Portrait:  an open reading, an exhibition of photographs, paintings, and drawings from the late 19th-century to the present that explores the genre of portraiture from a new perspective that considers the modern portrait’s social, political, and economic contexts, beyond its art historical foundational grounding. 

The works in the exhibition include an 1873 engraving of a painting by John Singer Sargent’s teacher, Carolus-Duran; paintings by twentieth-century artists such as Guy Pène du Bois and Edna Reindel; a drawing by Norman Rockwell; and photographs by Jacques Henri Lartigue, Philippe Halsman, and Andres Serrano. Contemporary emerging portrait artists in the show include Nina Katchadourian, Ed Fraga, Lucy Levene, Rebecca Soderholm, and Alex Schuchard, Elizabeth Livingston.

The Portrait:  an open reading examines how the genre has changed dramatically over the centuries and how the means by which a portrait today is expressive is much more than the literal representation of a person’s external appearance. The earliest portraits, classical Greek and Roman, were created to commemorate wealthy and powerful people, either during their reigns or upon their deaths. In Medieval and Renaissance periods, religious persons became the mainstays of the genre. In the 1700s, as result of industrialization and an emergent middle-class(burghers in the Netherlands, the bourgeoisie in France), commissioned portraits were made by skilled and well-known artists of the families and colleagues of patrons who stemmed from a wide variety of backgrounds and social status.

Lucy Levene, Untitled 4 from L.A. Stories, 2009; c-type print; 24 x 18 inches

Lucy Levene, Untitled 4 from L.A. Stories, 2009; c-type print; 24 x 18 inches

None of those reasons for making portraits in the past have ceased, but new motivations and purposes have been added, resulting in a genre capable of creating rich and diverse meanings. Portraiture today is host to a multitude of significations beyond the representation of a person’s external – or even external + internal – likeness. There are, in this show, the formal photographs of Humphrey Bogart and Frank Sinatra by Philippe Halsman that signify the idea of celebrity and its partner, money; but then also one by Andrea Serrano’s that signifies the traditionally morally-accepted “type” of marriage – a portrait in which the coupledom overtakes the individual particularities of the two sitters. War Thoughts by the mid-twentieth-century painter Guy Pène du Bois, is a double-portrait that represents death and its idea as much as it does two individuals; while Nina Katchadourian’s photograph Artificial Insemination, is a “stand-in” for life and human procreation, with no human face or figure in evidence. The collected artworks engage each other and viewers in a curatorial conversation about the varied and changing approaches to portraiture, which then enables the contemplation of the historic periods, economic and political landscapes, artistic pedagogies, and personal relationships at play in each image.

The Portrait:  an open reading will be on view from October 26, 2017 to January 5, 2018, with an opening reception on Thursday, October 26 from 6 to 8 pm. 


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For further information, please contact Abigail McLeod, Gallery Manager,
at 212.255.2885