Photographer Duane Michals turns his eye on the legendary artists René Magritte and Andy Warhol in this exhibition of early portraits. Known for his surreal sequences and witty storytelling across media, Michals’s portraits of other artists turn the tables upon his subjects by adopting elements of their characteristic visual styles. Among the many artists photographed by Michals over his six-decade long career, Michals particularly sought out Magritte and Warhol as subjects. The exhibition will feature nearly forty portraits of Warhol and twenty portraits of Magritte, alongside over twenty portraits of other major 20th century artists. These two series reimagine these mythological artists on Michals’s own terms, capturing at once the illusory image of the artist and the person beneath.
Duane Michals first took portraits of Andy Warhol in 1958, and continued to photograph him throughout the artists’ friendship. They met while Warhol was working as a commercial artist and connected over their shared experiences growing up in Pittsburgh. The 1958 portraits capture this moment of transition from working in advertising to establishing himself as Andy Warhol, the artist and personality. The subsequent portraits taken over the years illuminate Warhol’s constant self-reinvention. Michals comments, “he’s transcended being a mere artist, he’s a phenomenon. Andy was phenomenal. And he still is, and he will get stronger as time goes on.”
In August, 1965, Duane Michals arrived at René Magritte’s home in Brussels to take the famous surrealist’s portrait. Michals made the connection through a friend of a friend and had no idea what to expect from the painter who was a large influence on his own photographs. Michals’s photographs refract Magritte and his space through his own engagement with Magritte’s art. He writes, “what so engaged me in Magritte’s work was its ability to perplex. In his world, I could not be sure of anything.” The portraits convey the surrealist sense of humor shared by the two artists, using double exposures and other techniques to perplex the eye. Magritte is dressed in a dark suit and bowler hat, “the familiar Magritte man” of his paintings.
Michals’ portraits of other artists, including Marcel Duchamp, David Hockney, Alice Neel, Louise Nevelson, and Robert Rauschenberg, will be shown alongside these two series. Each image speaks to the particularities of the sitter, channeling the aura of their work while maintaining his own idiosyncratic vision.
Duane Michals (b. 1932, McKeesport, PA) first made significant, creative innovations in the field of photography during the 1960s. In an era heavily influenced by photojournalism, Michals manipulated the medium to communicate narratives. Over the past five decades, Michals’ work has been exhibited extensively in the United States and abroad. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, hosted Michals’ first solo exhibition in 1970. In 2008, Michals celebrated his 50th anniversary as a photographer with a retrospective exhibition at the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, Greece, and the Scavi Scaligeri in Verona, Italy. In 2019, The Morgan Library and Museum in New York exhibited a career retrospective of Michals' work, The Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan. Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals originated at The Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA (2014-2015), and traveled to The Peabody Essex Musuem, Salem, MA (2015). The recent touring exhibition, Duane Michals: The Portraitist, originated at DC Moore Gallery in 2015 and traveled to The Crocker Museum of Art, Sacramento, CA (2018-2019), The Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY (2019), The Lowe Art Museum, Miami, FL (2021), Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg, Sweden (2022), University of Richmond Museums, Richmond, VA (2022), and The Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki, Finland (2023).
Over forty monographs of Michals’ work have been published, including Storyteller: Duane Michals (2014), Duane Michals: Empty New York (2018), and, most recently, Texas (2022).