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Character Reference

By T.Whid

Character Reference
January 19 - February 24 2007
Opening Reception: January 18, 6-8pm

The Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery is pleased to present “Character Reference”” a group show featuring an international group of contemporary artists.

The portrait as a genre has enjoyed an enduring popularity throughout the history of art. As depictions of power and wealth, or socialist realist studies, through its current pervasiveness in contemporary photography, the portrait has long played a key role in creating and questioning identity. Through the works in “Character Reference” the artists Oliver Laric, MTAA, Julian Opie, Lee Walton and Marina Zurkow all mine this rich genre. These artists do not simply employ the portrait as a means to depict specific individuals but rather use the form to represent broader cultural types.

Oliver Laric’s “787 Cliparts” uses as building blocks the “clip art” which can be found embedded in Microsoft Word documents and Power Point presentations world over. These prepackaged images are seamlessly streamed together in a continuous dance to convey and question how diverse cultures and activities are stereotyped in the name of convenient communication.

MTAA’s “Infinite Smile” is a video portrait in which the artists’ faces hold a smile in an infinitely repeating loop. Their expressions, appear to change from glee to agony and back, highlighting the artifice of the smile and its function as a seller of goods and ideology, an indicator of happiness, and how we project our own assumptions on to the ubiquitous happy face.

In Julian Opie’s “Suzanne Walking in Leather Skirt” and “Sarah Walking in Bra, Pants and Boots”, female characters are rendered in the artist’s signature generic, minimalist style. These sexually charged portraits of women in underwear and short skirts conveys a connection to the specific subjects while simultaneously representing the stereotypical and loaded symbols of female sexuality.

To create Lee Walton’s “The Serial Conversationalist”, Walton targeted park benches throughout New York City on specific dates and times and initiated conversation with whoever happened to sit down. Often awkward and pained, Walton’s recordings of these conversations with random strangers about kids, dogs and other New York wildlife help inform a portrait of a city and how it establishes and solidifies our understanding of the characters around us.

Likewise, Marina Zurkow’s animated “Boom!Darling” looks at the formation of character against the backdrop of a hyper-active urban environment. Through this short animation we see a girl on the edge of puberty exploring her own identity in the booming metropolis of current day Shanghai - a city which is similarly experiencing “growing pains” in the current global economy.

Seen as a whole the works in “Character Reference” represent a broadened view of the portrait genre. Using this historically rich convention in new ways the artists are able to portray their subjects as much more than they appear.

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