Skarstedt presents Portraits, an exhibition of paintings, photographs, and sculptures by Georg Baselitz, George Condo, John Currin, Eric Fischl, Martin Kippenberger, Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Prince, David Salle, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol. Spanning over five decades, the works in this exhibition demonstrate the versatility of portraiture and the way in which contemporary artists have utilized the traditional genre to speak on identity, self-expression, transformation, and the human psyche.
The mythic figure of the hunter in Georg Baselitz’s 1966 painting stands proudly atop a doglike creature – his heroic stance is fragmented, speaking on the forever destabilized post-war German culture. The hardened and stoic gaze is intensified through the artist’s heavy brushwork and subverted picture plane.
With a highly conceptual and painterly vision, Martin Kippenberger’s 1984 suite of nine portraits gathers an unlikely cast of characters. John Lennon’s son dressed as a woman, Joseph Beuy’s mother, John Holmes, and a policeman create a spectrum of celebrity, pornography, music, politics, and fine art. Kippenberger taps into the elements of self-expression and entangles autobiographical, cultural, and historic references. It is a compendium which reflects Kippenberger’s own artistic ego and self-image.
Self-portraiture was also championed by Robert Mapplethorpe. Often embodying a persona, Mapplethorpe used costume, makeup, and composition to reveal the complexities of his own identity and the emerging subcultures of the 1970s and 80s. Based on the famous 1974 photograph of the newspaper heiress, Patty Hearst, holding a rifle with the symbol of the Symbionese Liberation Army behind her, Mapplethorpe’s 1983 Self-Portrait shows himself in battle dress (leather jacket), posing with rifle in hand, in front of an inverted five-pointed star or pentagram, a sign of the Devil. Mapplethorpe presents himself as an aggressor, a rebel soldier fighting for his ‘sinful’ behavior.
Akin to Mapplethorpe’s transformative techniques, Cindy Sherman employs makeup and costume to masterfully metamorphose into the personas and scenarios she constructs. Following the Untitled Film Stills, Sherman’s Centerfold series responds to the horizontal format of the open magazine – the photo spread of a woman stretched across both pages in Playboy magazine. Instead, the youthful girl clutches her leg in moment of physical and psychological intensity. In reclaiming this visual format, Sherman becomes a vessel through which this powerful social commentary is presented.
The psychological nature of portraiture evolved and expanded through the use of abstraction and the artist’s model. The amalgamation of theoretical and painterly techniques is presented in this exhibition, celebrating the power of expression through the human form.George Condo, The K-Mart Girl, 2001. Oil on canvas 73 3/8 x 61 3/4 inches 186.4 x 156.8 cm