By Megan Viste
The W. Keith and Janet Kellogg University Art Gallery unveiled the colorful, unconventional portraiture of four Los Angeles-based artists on Saturday with its new exhibit titled “About Face.”
Traditional portraits aim to depict an accurate likeness to the subject and their personality or mood.
However, “About Face” seeks to challenge traditional portraiture by taking its meaning beyond the appearance of the subject and extending its context to psychological and social implications.
“I was looking at the idea of portraiture but it being turned on its head,” said gallery curator Michele Cairella-Fillmore. “Not portraiture for identifying people or idealizing someone’s beauty, which is the typical traditional use of portraiture, but for portraiture to say something else, something different, something more meaningful to our society.”
The collection features a compilation of works from artists Justin Bower, Rebecca Campbell, Salom_ÒÐn Huerta and Roni Stretch.
Bower’s artwork features vivid, neon-colored depictions of technological coding incorporated into the image of a human face to represent the saturation of technology in everyday life.
According to Bower, his portraits seek to illustrate the “irreversible altered-state” that humans come to live in with every creation of new technology and how it affects our identity as a species.
“I took [inspiration] from what I saw that was rampantly happening and basically taking the technology modality and how that infects the sense of who we are,” said Bower, who studied art and philosophy as an undergrad. “I chose the face because it’s the most intimate sense of subjectivity.”
Campbell approaches portraits with a more feministic eye.
Her paintings portray images of women in domesticated or sexualized roles, but are layered with color and texture to alter the image and identity of the woman, as well as ultimately alter her representation.
According to Campbell, most fine art graduates are women, yet only 20 percent of gallery representation goes to women. For this reason, she finds significance in placing the female form front and center in her artwork.
One of her portraits, titled “Diamond Valley,” displays a woman in a kitchen chopping shallots with tears in her eyes in front of a window with a rainbow outside that appears to be cutting through the woman’s head. The image aims to display the “quiet suffering” of those whose role it is to care for others, according to Campbell.
“She is kind of imploding from the Diamond Valley,” said Campbell.
Two of Campbell’s other pieces are images of models from a Playboy magazine spread from the year she was born, although modified to cover certain aspects of the image ” one with the woman’s form covered in glitter, titled “Glitter Girl,” and one where the background is covered while most of the woman remains uncovered, titled “Miss April 1971.”
“The demands of the female body and covering it and uncovering it are very complicated,” said Campbell.
Huerta’s art portrays famous boxers post-fight, most covered in blood or distorted in some way from the violence.
“After fighting, their faces become someone else,” said Huerta.
Most of Huerta’s subjects were men of color such as Muhammad Ali and Manny Pacquiao. His body of work sought to make a comparison between “the violence of boxing and the violence of the black male,” according to Huerta, and how celebrity is created through the brutality of the sport while the injuries represent suppression.
“He wanted to try to back-paddle a little bit about the connection to the brutality on black people,” said Cairella-Fillmore.
Stretch’s paintings require a closer look, taking photorealistic portraits and layering translucent coats of color to create a “ghost-like” image where the human subject appears to emerge from and recede into the color, generating a three-dimensional appearance.
“It forces you to really look carefully, which is something we should all be doing with each other more instead of looking at our phones all the time,” said Cairella-Fillmore of Stretch’s artwork.
The portraits resemble the people so accurately that Stretch decided to leave visible paint drippings at the bottom of the canvas to prove that they were actual paintings and not photographs.
While Stretch was unable to attend the opening reception, Bower, Campbell and Huerta presented their work individually and answered questions from guests of the gallery. Approximately 200 guests were in attendance throughout the evening.
Huerta will also be returning for an artist lecture titled “Art, Identity, & Place” 1-2 p.m. April 18 at the Kellogg Art Gallery.
“About Face” will be on display at the Kellogg Art Gallery until Thursday, April 27.
Megan Viste / The Poly Post
The art featured in “About Face” provides commentary on various social issues including the influence technology has on the human species. The goal is to convey a message more meaningful than a simple physical likeness to the subject of the portrait
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