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David Ebony's Top 10 New York Gallery Shows This Winter
Artnet

Catherine Opie at Lehmann Maupin through February 20.

 

This enthralling two-part exhibition presents a distinctive set of works that Los Angeles-based photo artist Catherine Opie has produced over the past few years. Known for her provocative exploration of gender identity, and an often acerbic critique of the urban environment, Opie appears in this show in a rather meditative or introspective mode, although the images are potent and engaging as ever. The gallery's Chelsea branch features recent portraiture, and hazy landscape photos that are both romantic and classical in tone. They often aspire to painterly attributes. Outstanding among the portraits, for instance, are artist celebrities such as Matthew Barney, Lawrence Weiner, and John Waters, who are dramatically lit in a manner that is decidedly Rembrandt-esque.

 

Filling the gallery's Lower East Side branch is a series of fifty photographs titled 700 Nimes Road that is an understated but surprisingly moving tribute to the late Hollywood icon and AIDS activist Elizabeth Taylor. Opie received permission from the actress to photograph the interior of her home in the months just prior to her death in 2011. In the exhibition, as well as an accompanying book (DelMonico Books/Prestel), Opie focuses on intimate details of the place, such as a number of vignettes, or clusters of photos and memorabilia throughout the house that are tributes to her family and close friends, such as Michael Jackson (Bedside Table). One particularly poignant image highlights a casual heap of bejeweled red ribbons, alluding to her glamour, and, of course, to Taylor's early and valiant efforts on behalf of AIDS awareness and research. While Opie never got the chance to photograph the star, she manages to convey in these photos a sense of her luminous presence.