Pier 24 Photography presents About Face, an exhibition focusing on the tradition of portrait-based photography. On view are nearly one thousand photographs drawn primarily from the Pilara Foundation’s permanent collection.Revelations – the Diane Arbus retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – inspired the purchase of the Foundation’s first photograph, a portrait from her challenging and emotive Untitled series. The emotional intensity characterizing this photograph has informed subsequent acquisitions for the collection.
About Face encompasses wide-ranging approaches to portraiture from the mid-nineteenth century to present-day. The typology becomes a vehicle for chronicling individuals of a particular region and time in August Sander’s Face of Our Time and Richard Avedon’s The Family. Jim Goldberg’s Rich and Poor and Larry Sultan’s SF Societyconsider the socio-economic divide in San Francisco. Through a series of 66 self-portraits by Lee Friedlander from the past 50 years, one encounters many of the themes that have come to characterize his practice. Self-examination is also the focal point in selected works by Cindy Sherman, Gillian Wearing, Yasumasa Morimura, and Tomoko Sawada, in which the artists alter their appearances to challenge traditional notions of identity.
The unique large-scale prints by Richard Learoyd, as well as Hiroshi Sugimoto’s series of Henry VIII and his six wives, reconsider the long history of portraiture in painting. Hans-Peter Feldmann’s 100 Years consists of 101 portraits of people born from 1900 to 2000, tracing the span of a human life within which viewers can position themselves.
The exhibition also examines utilitarian modes of photography. On display are over 300 American mugshots from the early twentieth century, as well as a selection of hand-painted family portraits from Brazil known as Retratos Pintados.
With the exponential growth of image-making, portraiture remains the most popular photographic genre. The exhibited works in About Face provide a context within which to consider the unique dynamic between the subject, photographer and viewer.