Permanent Collection Exhibition
November 8, 2014 to October 25, 2015
The contemporary portraits featured in this gallery show how a longstanding artistic tradition can be made new in the hands of artists working today. These varied works reveal a wide range of approaches to the depiction of face and figure, from straightforward portrayal to a more abstract impression. Till Freiwald’s portraits push the limits of the watercolor medium. The artist begins with a direct encounter with the subject and then makes small-scale sketches from photographs. Putting those studies aside, he completes the monumental watercolors from the images in his mind’s eye, capturing the essential characteristics of the face. Perhaps more than any other artist working today, Chuck Close has used his own image as a source material for paintings, prints, and photographs. His photogravure is a crossover between a photograph and a print—a contemporary use of a 19th-century process. Since participating in the early years of the 70s Pattern and Decoration Movement, Robert Kushner has continued to mine the history of ornamentation, including Islamic and European textiles, to create large-scale portraits. Here his subject is defined through color and fashion, rather than by a straightforward picture.
During a 1999 artist’s residency at the Parrish Art Museum, the photographer Dawoud Bey worked with students from local high schools as part of a his ongoing project to bring young people and museums together. Bey describes the resulting composite photographs as a collaboration and an outgrowth of the week-long encounter. In this portrait of Anthony, a Southampton High School senior, Bey highlights two key traits that define the young man—his face and hands. Since the 1980s, the artists Michael Clegg and Martin Guttmann have worked collaboratively to make photographs that question the nature of portraiture and the representation of power. In their featured work, this seemingly straightforward image is inspired by both 17th-century Dutch painting and the visual language of portraits of “masters of the universe” that are commonly commissioned for annual corporate reports.
Philip Pearlstein has long been regarded as one of America’s most important realist painters. Now in his nineties and still active, his work has been an influence and inspiration to many younger artists. Eric Fischl and David Salle met in the 70s when they both attended the California Institute of the Arts. At a time when painting, and especially paintings that included recognizable images, was often thought of as “of the past,” both became known for their bold canvases—Fischl for his portrait and figure painting and Salle for pairings that create a dialogue between images.