A Visit to the “About Face” Exhibit at the Blanton Museum

Chuck Close Self-Portrait, 1999 Relief etching

Chuck Close
Self-Portrait, 1999
Relief etching

Yesterday we checked out the “About Face” portrait exhibit at the Blanton Museum.  Another great exhibit!  For exhibits like this that are (more or less) chronological, we try to start our viewing at the end, or the latest works, and work our way backwards in time.  I usually enjoy viewing contemporary works the most, as I haven’t seen as many of them, and they are more relevant to my own work.

I absolutely love all works by Chuck Close.  He’s one of the painters that I contemplate often when I am about to start a painting session.  I love how his portraits are made up of tiny abstract shapes, and how interesting all those shapes are, and how much fun it is to see a progression of the various shapes within the portrait—more fun when the work is in color, but almost more interesting in black and white.  I keep wondering how I could incorporate shapes like his into my abstract paintings.  (Does it even make sense?  Maybe I should paint little representational shapes that make up a larger abstract work.)

Byron Kim | Synecdoche, 1991-1998 | Oil and wax on twenty panels

Byron Kim | Synecdoche, 1991-1998 | Oil and wax on twenty panels

I was thrilled to see the work “Synecdoche” by Byron Kim, which consists of oil and wax on twenty panels, and are portraits in the sense that each panel is the base skin color of each of twenty models that he found on the UT campus; thus the title, “Synecdoche” (a figure of speech in which a part represents the whole).  These twenty panels are in a way part of a larger work, or kind of a synecdoche within a synecdoche, the larger work now owned by the National Gallery of Art.  The larger work has been shown at such museums as the Tate and MOMA, which has a link to a nice video explanation by Byron Kim.

Oliver Herring | Patrick, 2004 | Foam core, museum board, digital C-print photographs, and polystyrene

Oliver Herring | Patrick, 2004 | Foam core, museum board, digital C-print photographs, and polystyrene

<– This sculpture made up of photographs by Oliver Herring amazes me. Kind of like David Hockney in 3D.  🙂

The oil painting by Jim Torok below is only about 4″ x 3″ — awesomely done and really requires close viewing!  I’m trying to imagine the numbers of hairs in the brushes he must have used.

The portrait by Robert Henri is a long-time favorite of mine; I can stare for hours at almost any of his paintings, and his portraits are particularly amazing.

It is also great to see again the “Portrait of George Gershwin in a Concert Hall” by David Alfaro Siqueiros, which is also a portrait of dozens of the audience members.

So much great work, so little time to talk about it, so go to the Blanton and see this show yourselves, if you can.  It’s up through September 4th.  There are rooms and rooms of paintings from present day back to the 14th century.  I took photos of many of the ones that I found compelling, which you can see in the gallery below.

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There is no model; there is only color.

— Paul Cezanne
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Gallery of Recent Paintings
Blockhead -  Oil on Canvas - 8 x 8 - © 2015 Marilyn Fenn Stop! in the Name of Love - Oil painting by Marilyn Fenn Untitled 2015-020 - Oil on Canvas - 8 x 8 - © 2015 Marilyn Fenn Composition #10 - 2013 -  Acrylic on panel -  9x12 inches -  © 2013 Marilyn Fenn