High-camp: a pair of Catherine Opie solo shows at Lehmann Maupin, NY

High-camp: a pair of Catherine Opie solo shows at Lehmann Maupin, NY

New York gallery Lehmann Maupin is going big with its solo debut for photographer Catherine Opie, giving over its Chelsea and Lower East Side galleries to two separate Opie shows.

Opie built her reputation shooting lesbian, gay and transgender subjects with a kind of compassionate classicism – as well as stunning abstract American landscapes – in the 1990s. And, in that sense, ’Portraits and Landscapes’, an exhibition of new works at the Chelsea site, is classic Opie.

The exhibition includes portraits of fashion designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, the artist Kara Walker, film director John Waters, fashion editor Cecilia Dean and New Yorker theatre critic and occasional curator Hilton Als. All are shot in the classical fashion, against a black background and with chiaroscuro lighting. It’s classic icon-making for an alternative set of icons. Around these are her landscapes, blurred or otherwise abstracted and unrecognisable as any particular place or time.

The Lower East Side show, ’700 Nimes Road’, is a more singular project – 50 photographs of the interiors and favourite objects of the late Elizabeth Taylor. Opie spent six months shooting inside Taylor’s LA home in 2010, while the Hollywood legend was ill but still very much alive. Though Taylor doesn’t appear in any of the images, it is as an intimate portrait of another icon who combined a fierce intelligence with high camp.

And Opie is having a bit of a moment in LA too. A selection of the ’700 Nimes Road’ images is being shown at MOCA’s Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, while another exhibition of portraits opens at LA’s Hammer Museum on 30 January. A site-specific installation at the Los Angeles Federal Courthouse opens in June this year.

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