DC Moore Gallery is pleased to present the exhibition Duane Michals: The Portraitist, a selection of new work in which Michals reinvigorates the possibilities of portraiture through the innovative use of sequencing, reflections, multiple exposures, overpainting, and handwritten annotations.
The black-and-white photographs on view were developed from never-before-printed negatives that Michals exposed in the course of his career. His subjects include artist Jasper Johns, photographer Art Kane, actress Hildegard Knef, and singer Barbra Streisand. A selection of earlier portraits, including those of Balthus, Bertha and Charles Burchfield, Joseph Cornell, and René Magritte, provides context for the recent work. As the variety of poses, settings, viewpoints, and formats in these images demonstrates, Michals adapts the style of each portrait to the individual, thereby eschewing any formula that speaks more to photographer than sitter.
Wary of the commonplaces of portraiture, Michals rejects the notion of “looking at people with the pretentions of looking into them.” He has developed an alternative approach, which he terms “prose portraiture.” Rather than recording a physical likeness, he works to “suggest the atmosphere of the sitter’s identity, which is the sum total of who they are … A prose portrait might require three or four photographs to reveal something about what the sitter does in life that defines him or her. A face does not necessarily need to be seen; most people’s significance won’t be found there.” Michals further disrupts expectations by intervening on the surface with annotations often conveying his impressions of a person via witty or poetic commentary scrawled onto the print.
A major retrospective, Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals, organized by the Carnegie Museum of Art and presented there in the fall of 2014, is traveling to the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem. It will be on view there from March 14 through June 21, 2015. A monograph, published by Prestel with essays by Linda Benedict-Jones, Allen Ellenzweig, Marah Gubar, Max Kozloff, and Aaron Schuman, accompanies the exhibition. The Monacelli Press released the publication ABCDuane: A Duane Michals Primer in 2014.
Michals’s first solo museum exhibition was at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1970. His work belongs to numerous permanent collections in the U.S. and abroad, including the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.