Photo by Liza Voll
Catherine Opie (born 1961) has forged new idioms in both portrait and landscape photography, frequently combining the two genres to explore how people occupy different landscapes—from high school football players on the field to ice fishermen on frozen lakes, to surfers waiting for the next wave. In doing so she has come to stand as one of America’s foremost documentarians. Recently, Opie has returned to the genre of street photography, elaborating on the relationship between people and place, particularly the energies and desires created when masses of people convene around a shared interest or value. Freedom of assembly is one of the rights Americans take for granted; Opie is interested in the way that sites, such as the National Mall in Washington, D.C., come to be defined by the groups of people who assemble there and how their gathering shapes the identity of the place. This catalogue presents Opie’s photographs of recent political demonstrations and gatherings, ranging from the inauguration of President Obama to Tea Party rallies. Drawing on a long and august tradition of American landscape painting and documentary photography, Opie gives us a view of democracy in action. Her photographs offer a dynamic, complicated and loving portrait of the United States at the dawn of the twenty-first century. This fully illustrated catalogue features a discussion between the artist and ICA Boston Chief Curator Helen Molesworth.