Changing Portraits: ƒ?oeOnly Humanƒ?? at the M.M.A.A.

By Charles Campbell

[img_assistfid=91thumb=0alt=Exploring Contemporary Portraits]
Still relevant after thousands of years, portraiture continues to find application as a means of documenting and expressing both the person represented and the context in which it was created. As one of the most long-standing and constantly evolving genres in art, the boundaries have ruptured around what a portrait can be and who is worthy of being depicted.

In ƒ?oeOnly Human,ƒ?? the newest exhibit on display at the Minnesota Museum of American Art, nine artists expand upon the tradition through contemporary themes such as identity and through employment of innovative new mediums.

Quiet, still and surprisingly humorous, Anthony Marchettiƒ?TMs series of photographs display empty apartments with the unwanted remains of their former inhabitants. As a turn-painter, whitewashing walls between tenants, Marchetti only knows about his portrait sitters through the places they lived and the things they left behind. But in a consumerist culture where ƒ?oeyou are what you buy,ƒ?TM these portraits are more revealing than expected. Whether it be the zoo of cheap stuffed animals, liquor bottles and stains that litter the interior of 7712 DR (2005), or the lone calendar of the buxom young motorcycle enthusiast in 7614-7MSTBR (2005), the series can be read as a critique on American culture while at once embracing kitsch.

In Katinka Galanosƒ?TMs work, the artist also uses photography as the modern standard for portraits, yet elaborates on the medium by layering exposures, creating haunting, expressionistic pieces that disobey the viewerƒ?TMs expectations. In Christine Abdicated (2005), the sourceƒ?TMs face is obscured by a layer of oily black violently carved through to expose the eyes; the resulting image of seems more animal than human.

While still utilizing layers, the artist departs from this aesthetic in the diptych, Hedge/Andy and Mr. Hedges (2005). Taking the hedge as her inspiration, Galanos discovered an antique photograph of one, Mr. Hedges, who had a remarkable resemblance to her friend. Exposing the negatives on top of one another, the portraits are unified as one, bisected by a shared eye. To the left, an abstracted field of texture suggesting a wall of trimmed hedge remains as a reminder of the inspiration for the piece.

One of two artists working with digital media, Peter B. Becker Nelson disrupts the notion of truth in documentary film as, in Nine Monologues (2005), the words of an elderly woman reflecting upon her gender role expectations as a girl stem from the mouth of a young, buzzed-hair man wearing a t-shirt. As funny as it is convincing, the piece discusses gender while also taking aim at portraiture itself; because, how the artist chooses to depict their source to an audience can end up revealing just as much about the creatorƒ?”a portrait of the artist him/herself.

ƒ?oeOnly Human: Exploring Contemporary Portraitsƒ??
Runs through March 26, 2006
Minnesota Museum of American Art
50 W. Kellogg Blvd. / 651-266-1030
Free Admission
11 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, til 8 p.m on Thurs., closed Mon.