One would think that the obsession with having one’s portrait painted was just a foray into what today is referred to as a selfie, but historically speaking, portraits served to capture more than the essence of the subject, namely their power. Initially, portraits were regaled to the wealthy, such as royals and members of the clergy. Rarely, if ever , did they feature the everyday person. The portraits were often stylized and flattering—certain exceptions exist, of course, such as Francisco de Goya’s El Tio Paquete (1819-20) which immortalizes the expression of its subject, a blind musician local to Madrid at the time, bringing forth notions of a Quasimodo-like character. It is these thoughts associated to the gentleness of such characters that in turn allow paintings such as Goya’s become considered beautiful, and it is works like this that open the door to contemporary forms of portraiture, revealing that what we often shield ourselves from and shun in everyday life is what we’re, subliminally, most attracted to.
In the present time, artists continue to paint portraits; often still stylized and glorifying either a person, or the character of a person. Many still follow guidelines of proportion set down in the Ancient world like, for example, the mathematical ratio of portioning a face: which face types fulfill this ideal; which body type; the gaze of the subject; a portrait’s setting. In the group exhibition, Here’s Looking at You: A Contemporary Kaleidoscope, the artists herald from the United States, Argentina, Germany, Spain, Italy, Nigeria, and Ghana. What is interesting about this exhibition is the ways in which each represented country, so to speak, approaches the classification of the portrait with none falling into the standardized notion of exactly how a portrait should be executed. Instead, each highlights a redefining of the ideas of beauty that have informed sensibilities over time, from the classical world to modern times, in their own artistic language.
What is evident when looking at the portrait works presented in Here’s Looking at You: A Contemporary Kaleidoscope is that there is intention behind the works, and culture plays a role in the final outcome. The artists in this booth, representing 7 countries and their own pockets across three continents, utilize color and the human figure to play with notions of reality, memory, and emotion, glorifying both beauty and ugliness as the sublime. Schmitt, Monzo, Machado Rodriguez, Santiago, and Gamez de Francisco, Revell & Queef Latina do this with as much intention as Swallah, Zibor, and Habib, although it should be noted that the latter three work with a particular awareness of Blackness by ways of lived experience as Black men, especially within the historical context of the art industry, which presents a responsibility of their choosing to affirm Black beauty in tandem. All the works, regardless of where their creators call home, serve to present where we are as a society; what interests and consumes us; how we all share and experience life. These portraits value all equally, serving as evidence of our humanity taught by this kaleidoscope of artists.
For more information, please visit https://scope-art.com/show/miami-beach-2021/visitor/. To view the works in our booth, please visit our Artsy page.