Palm Springs Art Museum
Palm Desert
Edwards Harris Center
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PERSONALITIES: FANTASY AND IDENTITY IN PHOTOGRAPHY AND NEW MEDIA

January 17th – May 3rd, 2015
Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert

Using the diverse aesthetic traditions of portraiture as points of departure, this exhibition explores the representational power of photography from its origins in the nineteenth century to its digital forms in the present. Drawing from the museum's permanent collection as well as on loan from artists and Private Collectors, Personalities emphasizes the unique characteristics of the photographic image to shape both the identity of a photographed sitter and a viewer's sense of a subject's persona. This exhibition examines how the careful art of the portrait can dive deeply into an individual's soul, but can also be manipulated to create personalities that exist beyond the realms of the real.

Using the diverse aesthetic traditions of portraiture as points of departure, this exhibition explores the representational power of photography from its origins in the nineteenth century to its digital forms in the present. Drawing from the museum's permanent collection as well as on loan from artists and Private Collectors, Personalities emphasizes the unique characteristics of the photographic image to shape both the identity of a photographed sitter and a viewer's sense of a subject's persona. This exhibition examines how the careful art of the portrait can dive deeply into an individual's soul, but can also be manipulated to create personalities that exist beyond the realms of the real.

From the moment it was invented, photography has been a source of popular fascination because of its ability to offer extraordinary representational accuracy. Yet photographers and sitters alike knew modifications could be made. Even in its earliest examples, photography was a potent tool that could alter the identity of a sitter, giving the subject status, beauty, fame, or the appearance of power. This exhibition begins with strong modern portraits by August Sander, and considers Hollywood glamour photography which transformed average women and men into starlets and beacons of masculinity, as stunningly illustrated by George Hurrell. Image makers such as Richard Avedon, Weegee, and Michael Childers soon upended midcentury notions of celebrity portraiture, and from the 1960s on, Diane Arbus and Lewis Morley brought a raw vision to documentary photographs that existed between fantasy and reality. By the end of the century, conceptual photographic approaches showcased the medium's ability to make fictions look like truth. Contemporary artists draw from these aesthetic histories, sometimes using digital formats. Work by Marina Abramovic, Zoe Crosher, Jen Davis, and Tomoko Sawada reveal identities to be unstable and rooted as much in history and social expectations as in personal self-imagining. Other artists who compose this diverse photographic history include Brian Bress, Jona Frank, Katy Grannan, Pirkle Jones, Milton Rogovin, Jono Rotman, and Wang Qingsong among others.

This exhibition is organized by the Palm Springs Art Museum and funded in part by the museum’s Contemporary Art Council, LEF Foundation, Helene V. Galen, and CAC’s Silver Sponsor Pamela Smallwood.

Exhibition Season Sponsors: Dorothy and Harold J. Meyerman and Arlene Schnitzer