We surround ourselves with portraits—we like to see our families, friends, and pets looking back at us. We line hallways with our leaders and heroes. We hang up pictures of people we don’t even know (but wish we did), perhaps hoping they can see us too. We feel a connection to a time, or a story, or ourselves, through the image of another’s face. The most famous painting in the world is a portrait, and still no one is sure who she was. We have discovered portraits that were made 27,000 years ago, and as long as there are faces to look at we will continue to make them.
Search Portrait at Thompson Giroux Gallery brings together five artists exploring contemporary portraiture across a range of media. Margot Curran and Dan Devine both use animals as models. Curran’s oil portraits of animals are suffused with warm lighting and empathetic depth, bringing Rembrandt to mind. Devine’s close-up color photographs of sheep, inspired by the textured regal quality of a Goya painting, have a rich backstory--these are animals he has personally lived with and cared for. John Hampshire, Mark LaRiviere, and Jack Shear all work with human subjects. Hampshire’s installation, four large paintings of “Laura”, are reminiscent of movie stills taken out of context, both intimate and mysterious. LaRiviere’s sculptures, with impressionistic and imperfect surfaces made of Hydrocal or clay, transcend the individual subject to suggest the innate vulnerability of humanity itself. Similarly, the men in Jack Shear’s black and white photographs all have their eyes closed, fully surrendering themselves to our gaze.
By making room for each subject’s unique reality, each artist’s unique vision, and each viewer’s unique response, these works bring a fresh spin to both a classical art form and our complicated, but undeniable, search for connection.