Closing next weekend at Regen Projects II in Los Angeles is new work by Catherine Opie. These photographs titled Twelve Miles to the Horizon document Opie’s trip on a container ship from Korea to Long Beach, capturing the sunrise and sunset across the ten days of the trip. Each image is composed with equal amount of water and sky, deliberately placing the viewer in the time and place documented in the image, allowing for both consistency in relation to the experience and variation in color and texture within the image. What remains is a sensation of solitude within this documented time and place, allowing the viewer to sense the duration of the work through these highly seductive and reductive photographs.
Although compositionally this body of work reflects her Icehouses (2001) and Surfer (2003) series, conceptually, these horizon photographs move in a different direction. Although the series maintains both aesthetic consistency and variation as these earlier series did, what strikes more is the repetition of the action — a sensation of documenting time rather than just the beauty and stillness present in the earlier series. What remains in the viewer’s mind is the constraint embedded in the image, reaching more to the limitations present in her self portraits than to her more aesthetic and experiential photographs. These photographs allow the viewer to witness her self-imposed restrictions, revealing the decisions that created the series of images rather than just a documented experience. What remains are sensations of time and place, bound in a beautifully seductive series of photographs.
Catherine Opie received her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1985 and her MFA from CalArts in 1988. She is currently a tenured professor at UCLA, and her work has been exhibited internationally. In 2008, she had a mid-career survey at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York — and the New York Times has a feature corresponding to the show. She has had solo exhibitions at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; The Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis; Photographers’ Gallery, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. An exhibition of Opie’s football, surfer, and landscape photographs will open at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in July 2010.