Jason Haam is pleased to present “Faces: from Warhol to Chun Kyung-ja,” a group exhibition by Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe, Glenn Brown, Yoshitomo Nara, Michaël Borremans, Fernando Botero, Elizabeth Peyton, John Currin, Mark Manders, André Butzer, Pierre Huyghe, and Chun Kyung-ja. Various works by the artists will be on display in the gallery’s first and second floor exhibition spaces.
With the emergence of photography by the turn of the 20th century, the number of those willing to pose in front of artists began to dwindle, as it had become impossible, even unnecessary, for human hands to mimic the agonizing details of a photograph. Thwarted in their attempts to most accurately depict their subjects, artists began to venture past the limits of realistic representation and into the realms of creativity, where perception and intuition served as their only guide.
Portraits thereafter have branched out in diversity. From what had previously been largely regarded as a Eurocentric practice, portraiture spread to all corners of the world, undergoing drastic transformation. Mixed into the pigments were traces of humor, exaggeration, or even plain disgust. They began to carry characteristics of minimalism, expressionism, or surrealism, the artist’s touch breathing life into each work. Unlike the traditional practice of recording, where images were used to precisely depict facial features, different approaches and processes were implemented to capture the subject’s character, demeanor, and inner psyche. And those artists with originality prevailed.
With the exhibition scheduled to open on June 7th, 2018, Jason Haam aims to examine this broad discipline of contemporary portraiture, of how the genre has developed and diversified in the contemporary art world, and why each artist’s work has left an impact on the field.
As the leading figure in the Pop Art movement, Andy Warhol revolutionized the way in which portraiture was commercialized through his series of silkscreen prints. Commenting on the mass-media culture of the 1960s, his iconic oeuvre of portraiture represents a new style in which it reduced his subjects to a series of reproducible images. In Berkeley Reinhold (circa 1979), Warhol converts a polaroid image onto a silkscreen print as a young girl provocatively models in a series of Lolita-esque poses. In these suggestive prints, Warhol depersonalizes his subject and instead projects his gaze onto her image, allowing a voyeuristic quality to the work. His un-naturalistic color palette produces a one-dimensional interpretation of the subject, wavering between the fine line of seduction and innocence.
In Glenn Brown’s Dance of the Seven Veils (2014), a stellar example of the artist’s quintessential use of thin, swirling brushstrokes and unnatural colors, the decaying skin paired with long, meandering beard curls creates an optical illusion of a foul stench permeating the painting’s surroundings. The transformation of a two-dimensional viewing into a four-dimensional experience highlights Brown’s brilliance and marks a new chapter for portraiture that had otherwise been appreciated only through a flat surface.
Portrait III (2006) by Michaël Borremans depicts a man shrouded in a hazy hue of sepia as is customary of the artist’s use of mute palette. The overlying veil of tawny brown cast over the man’s brooding eyes sheds an enigmatic veil over the portrait. The result is surreal, slightly unsettling, and all the more mesmerizing. On the opposite end of the aforementioned works are The Girl in Green (1994) and This is how it feels when your words mean nothing at all / girl (1995) by Yoshitomo Nara, the brightly-colored figures of which are not to be confused with Japanese mainstream manga. The upturned, mischievous eyes brimming with criticism are directed towards the rigid Japanese culture, and Nara’s ingenuity in delivering such profound topics through the eyes of an innocent little girl sets him apart as an iconic artist.
In Robert Sherman (1983), Robert Mapplethorpe produces a sculpture-like photograph, capturing the contours and the shadows revealed in the human body. By undressing his subject to a naked state, Mapplethorpe exposes a raw portrayal of the human condition. He delivers a fragile yet emotionally charged photograph in which he explores identity and perception through the lens of a camera.
On the other end of the spectrum is Pierre Huyghe’s LED and aluminum mask from the film The Host and the Cloud (2009-2010). Strikingly innovative, the mask gives viewers a glimpse of what shape the practice of portraiture may evolve into. Huyghe’s creation has carved a new path for itself in that portraits no longer have to be of a person’s face at all, that it can be of an object devoid of all human features. It shows that art has no limitations, no boundaries. The only restraint is the confines of one’s own imagination.
In what is to become the starting point of the ongoing question of what makes art original, Jason Haam plans to showcase the unique styles and practices of some of the most remarkable artists of the 20th and 21st century. From Warhol’s coy smile to Chun Kyung-ja’s piercing gaze, the very first group exhibition at Jason Haam explores originality in the most primal genre of art.