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On Exhibit: 500 Years of Other People


By Brad A. Greenberg '04

Published Jan 1, 2009 8:00 AM

On display will be 500 years of faces, including Catherine Opie's unsettling "Jerome Caja" (1993), above. Photos courtesy of the Hammer Museum.

Gustav Klimt, the late-19th-and early-20th-century Austrian Symbolist painter, was known for his beautiful, and controversially erotic, paintings of the female figure.

Conrad Felixmuller's "Portrait of Maximilian Harden "(1921) is one of the Other People in the exhibit; (below) Catherine Opie's "Faifo" (2007) is another.

Pablo Picasso, a co-founder of Cubism, left an indelible imprint on modern art with his provocative portraits.

And John Sonsini, who, unlike the other two, is still living and painting, is appreciated for his socially conscious portraits of Mexican day laborers, whom he paid their hourly wages to pose in his Los Angeles studio.

Separated by more than a century, these three artists are among more than a dozen included in the Hammer Museum's exhibition: "Other People: Portraits from Grunwald and Hammer Collections." The exhibition, split into three sections, spans half a millennia, from the early-16th century to today.

"The works presented here show the endurance of the portrait genre, from early Renaissance engravings of kings and scholars to contemporary photographs of artists and workers," the Hammer trumpeted in announcing the exhibit.

The exhibition draws from both the Grunwald Center's extensive collection of works on paper — primarily prints, drawing and photographs from Europe, the United States and Japan — and from the Hammer Contemporary Collection's trove of artistic treasures from various media over the past decade. Other artists represented include David Dupuis, David Hockney, Edvard Munch, Catherine Opie, Jack Pierson, Jenny Saville and Kiki Smith.

Their works are separated into thematic sections: One looks at portraits that emphasize the individual, particularly in the form of busts, half-lengths and a few self-portraits; another juxtaposes introspective portraits, such as Klimt's, with "direct and unflinching contemporary portrayals"; and the final focuses on portraits that place their subjects in positions that demonstrate their social status.

Showcasing faces and bodies from the last 500 years — both the way they were and the way they were seen — the exhibition offers a rare look into our understanding of human beauty over the course of not just years and decades but centuries.

View a gallery of images from the exhibit.

Other People: Portraits from Grunwald and Hammer Collections — the Hammer Museum. Through March 15. Hours vary. For more information, call (310) 443-7000 or visit the exhibition website.