Note: This exhibition is scheduled to close on 9/16/07.
Styles of portraiture from the 15th to 18th Century have been a reference point for many interesting (or at least striking) works by contemporary artists. A few names that quickly come to mind: Cindy Sherman, Janine Antoni, John Currin, Kehinde Wiley, and Karel Funk. Now mid-career San Francisco artist Deborah Oropallo has tapped this vein, and the project, called “Guise,” is her best to date.
Oropallo's first step was to cull images from internet sites that show female models in sexy costumes, including styles that play off the outfits of pirates, soldiers, etc. She then blended some of these images with 17th- and 18th-Century formal portraits in which men of power posed in elaborate costumes. The result is a series of large prints that invite the viewer to ruminate about the mutability of costume and pose as expressions of power and of sexuality.
(There is a related treatment of male self-presentation in Stanley Kubrick’s long, absorbing, and visually stunning film, Barry Lyndon. The 18th-Century male aristocrats wear makeup to their evening parties but may be up early in the morning to fight a duel.)
Selections from Oropallo’s “Guise” series are on view through the summer at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Further information about the prints is available from the publisher, Urban Digital Color, in San Francisco. These are high-quality pigment prints in one of two sizes—40" x 30" or 60" x 40".
Examples of the work are shown above and below (images from the Urban Digital Color website).