Catherine Opie: In & Around L.A.
By Erika Heet / Published by Dwell
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In her work, Catherine Opie has consistently focused her lens on the subcultural phenomena and the castaways of Los Angeles—lonely, mansard-roofed Beverly Hills mansions, freeway underbellies, and stark mini malls. This enlightening focus has earned the photographer Woodbury School of Architecture’s 2013 Julius Shulman Institute Excellence in Photography Award, in honor of which an exhibition is being held at the campus’s WUHO Gallery in Hollywood February 16–March 24 with an awards ceremony at the gallery on March 2. The show, a kind of compact retrospective, includes work from five series the artist has produced over the last two decades: Freeways, Houses, Landscapes, In and Around Home, and Shopkeepers. Opie is the fourth photographer to have received the honor after Iwan Baan (2010), Richard Barnes (2011), and Pedro E. Guerrero (2012); she is the first female and Angeleno to have received the award.

“Cathy encourages us in vivid detail to look at L.A. neighborhoods in the way we may not have done before,” says Emily Bills, who co-curated the show with Karin Higa, who will curate the Hammer Museum’s biennial Made in America in 2014. “It was important for us to carry that line from Julius [Shulman] to other people working in L.A.”

House #7 (Beverly Hills) 1995, from Opie’s Houses series. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles © Catherine Opie “Cathy photographs in such a way that—just as in her portraits—you see these carefully detailed facades that express the personalities behind the houses,” says Bills.

“I’m always thinking about what is iconic, and how to reimagine that,” says Opie. “The images hopefully begin to explore the complexity of Los Angeles as a metropolis.” Catherine Opie: In & Around L.A. runs concurrently with an exhibition of new portraits and landscapes February 23–March 29 at Regen Projects in Los Angeles, as well as Baan’s first major show in the in Los Angeles Perry Rubenstein Gallery February 20–April 13.

Untitled #34 from Freeway series, 1995. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles © Catherine Opie

“Part of my interest in photography is the way the camera can be used as tool in relation to creating history—150 years from now maybe there aren’t going to be any more cars on these structures, but the structures will remain,” says Opie.

House #11 (Beverly Hills), 1995, from Houses. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles © Catherine Opie

House #3 (Beverly Hills), 1995, from Houses. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles © Catherine Opie

Landscape #3 (Doheny Drive), 1996, from Landscapes. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles © Catherine Opie

Landscape #4 (Doheny Drive), 1996, from Landscapes. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles © Catherine Opie

Oliver in a Tutu, 2004, from In and Around Home. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles © Catherine Opie

Tavir (Gas Station), 2011, from Shopkeepers. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles © Catherine Opie

Erika Heet

@erikaheet

Erika Heet has been working in publishing for more than 20 years, including years spent as a senior editor at Architectural Digest and Robb Report. She has written for Architectural Digest, Robb Report, Interiors, Bon Appétit, Sierra Magazine, and The Berkeley Fiction Review. She recently wrote the foreword to New Tropical Classics: Hawaiian Homes by Shay Zak. She lives in a Topanga cabin with her artist husband and two children.

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