Catherine Opie: Gladstone Gallery

By Avgikos, Jan | Artforum International, November 2006 | Go to article overview

Catherine Opie: Gladstone Gallery


Avgikos, Jan, Artforum International


Catherine Opie's interest in community underpins an increasingly diverse body of work that ranges from life at home with partner, child, and pets to portraits of her neighborhood to the subcultures of Los Angeles (notably, its queer scene and its surfers). She also has a penchant for road trips, and it's evident from the photographs produced on her journeys across America that she's attracted to the down-home aesthetics of out-of-the-way places and to folk cultures that haven't quite caught up to postmillennial modernity. Opie appreciates life lived on one's own terms and to the fullest, and this optimism, at once personal and political, infuses and unites her art.

Paralleling Opie's interest in capturing life on the local level is a curiosity about and desire to explore urban environments--New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis. It is this impulse that gave rise to the works on view in her recent show at Gladstone Gallery, and, to an extent, they seem like a jarring departure: Bypassing the humanizing details of neighborhood culture, she turns away from opportunities to measure a city's pulse and character by its people and vernacular traditions (the very approach that we've come to expect from her). Instead, she opts for the hard, cold core of the power grid. Training her camera on concrete, glass, and steel, she captures an endless panorama of supersized corporate monoliths, with their attendant networks of plazas, roadways, and tunnels. The resultant black-and-white prints, with their deeply saturated tonalities, are somber, even melancholic, in large part because the scenes they depict are completely depopulated.

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