Great portraiture is always better than an exacting representation of the real. It reveals something about the personhood or identity of the subject. The personality or lack of, is the statement. Beyond the portraits of the famous, contemporary art is frequently concerned with other things. The Kehinde Wiley painting of Barack Obama, or the Amy Sherald painting of Michelle Obama are well known, but what other contemporary portraiture has that level of attention. Portrayals are still frequently recognized more for the fame of the subject than the artistic ability of the artist.
With the commonness of cellphone cameras in the pockets of most people, portraiture has been reduced to the familiarity of the selfie. Pictures of individuals has been deadened by the regular noise in our visual landscape. But what can maintain resonance is the well-considered and composed figure and how it is represented in contemporary art.
Portraiture, a long-standing practice is best considered differently. Sometimes through the subject – allowing our animal friends to sometime take center stage, granting the inanimate object or unknown subject personality, or a collection of objects to be a representation of ourselves.
Identity, and who is represented has also shifted concern from the iconic image of the bank president to the neighbor, under-represented, or the re-presented person. This does not discount the value in the perfectly articulated classical approach of oil paintings and photography. In a world heavily driven by conceptual art, tradition too can be radical and feel new. The historical reference or feel can provide another-time/world physicality that makes us reconsider the current moment.
Construction and material, at times folksy, is the exact and right approach to recontextualize an image and force a reconsideration of the figure; through manipulation, disruption, and material use a bit of the person can be newly examined.
Contemporary Portraiture is a consideration of the different materials, people represented, and narratives surrounding portraiture today. In Buffalo there are hundreds of people who incorporate portraiture in their practice and a survey of this activity is one for a future date.