ART BASEL 2013: Catherine Opie



Location: Art Basel 2013

Artist: Catherine Opie

Emeralds 2012

Pigment Print

40 x 53.3 inches

Regen Projects, L.A. California

I was fascinating by the method of utilizing a soft focus photograph in a fine art context after stumbling upon this work by Catherine Opie. In this color photograph discrete in scale, the image produced is striking but not produced to necessarily convey beauty.  The beauty and attractive qualities of the image arise from memory. The emerald stone being depicted through the vibrant green is obviously an emerald stone based on my own personal interactions with the stone itself. The photograph is representational and the title serves to enhance what is immediately known to the viewer upon first glance. A sense of balance is created in the composition of the image, with the negative space around the depicted object pronouncing the corresponding lines within the picture. The attractive nature of the image references the beauty of objects and an undertone of materialism and product placement prevalent in American culture today. Through photographic documentation, the object stands in time as to imply the notion that although you may look and admire this necklace, you will never be able to physically touch it. Through the narrative created, a socio-economic undertone can be seen in this off focus yet dreamlike portrayal.  Formal concerns on behalf of the artist are evident with an intention to experiment with printing technologies to challenge the viewer’s traditional senses. An art history reference can be drawn from the composition as to infer a vanitas associated with still life paintings from figures of upper-class society and the goods they have acquired during their privileged life. The illusion of texture is created in the soft and fuzzy filter applied in an otherwise flat presentation. The white minimalist frame surrounding the image emphasizes the color of the work serving only as a method of display. Anxiety is created by the use of filter applied to this image with the lack of control on behalf of the viewer to ever bring the image back into focus. Forever out of focus the image remains. Further investigation into the artist and her career illustrate how identities are subsequently shaped by the architecture surrounding the individual. She is well known in her works with the LGBT community and most notably with high school football players. Gender identity is a common theme explored through photography by Opie. Following my research of the artist my objectivity is somewhat shifted and my opinion influenced by the subject matter of the photograph. Perhaps a conversation with femininity is being created by depicting what many would consider a beautiful necklace to be adorned by a woman. Perhaps the status of art and the art market, or the ‘fashion show’ Art Basel represents to the unengaged spectator. I am curious to know how she interacts with this photograph and what brings it to be prominently displayed on the wall of a gallery representing the artist, almost like a piece of status-like jewelry itself. The parallel between the object as art and the art as an object is undeniable.




One comment

  1. It was a pleasure getting to know you and your work. Your writing is thoughtful, a pleasure to read. Keep me posted as your work develops.

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