Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) Presents Catherine Opie: Figure and Landscape Exhibition

Los Angeles,- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents Catherine Opie: Figure and Landscape, featuring recent work by the internationally renowned and LA-based photographer Catherine Opie.

The show’s primary focus is high-school football, a subject that allowed Opie to explore issues of masculinity, community, and national identity. On view through October 17, 2010, the exhibition is curated by Britt Salvesen, curator and head of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department, as well as the Prints and Drawings Department.

“Catherine Opie’s ability to craft beautiful and compelling pictures is matched by her awareness of art’s social and historical significance,” says Salvesen. “She is producing a true document of our time.”

Over the last three years, Opie photographed football games and players in seven states across America: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, and Texas. Atmospheric cues locate each regional site, while gestures and gazes reveal the adolescent players’ disparate psychologies. Looking past the clichés associated with football, Opie perceives diversity in the individuals and communities that celebrate the game.

Providing a point of departure for the football images are examples from the artist’s 2003 series of surfers in the Pacific Ocean, which lyrically situate human beings in elemental nature. A group of landscape photographs offers a concluding comment on our persistent attachment to purity as an attribute of nature. Working across the genres of portraiture and landscape, Opie has dedicated herself to documenting “this country and this culture.” This pursuit has led her to question assumptions about what is natural, whether in our surroundings or in our identities and behavior.

Keenly aware of art-historical standards and contemporary political attitudes, she purposefully creates photographs that function as objective records and subjective interpretations. Shown in conjunction with LACMA’s exhibition Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins, Opie’s work similarly addresses conventions of idealism and realism in the depiction of male athletes. Like photography itself, sports are associated with decisive moments. Even so, Opie finds moments of stasis: on the football field between plays or after practice, in the calm ocean between waves—all the while capturing the athletes’ capacity for complete absorption and heightened physical and mental awareness.

Top Image: Catherine Opie, Josh, 2007. Chromogenic development print, 30 x 22 1/4 in. The Eugene Sadovoy Collection. © Catherine Opie.

Lower Image: Catherine Opie, Three Rivers, California. Chromogenic development print, 48 x 64 in. Collection of the artist, courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles, CA. © Catherine Opie

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