Cover image of the review
Catherine Opie, Melissa & Lake, Durham, North Carolina, 1998, C-type print, 40 x 50 cm. © Catherine Opie Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, London, and Seoul

Catherine Opie: Binding Ties

17 Jun 2023
Heide Museum of Modern Art 1 Apr - 9 Jul 2023

What is Catherine Opie doing back in Australia? In 1994, eighteen of her photographs were included in a group exhibition curated by Juliana Engberg at none other than Heide. Titled Persona Cognita, Opie’s work sat amongst fifteen other artists (Jill Orr, Gareth Samson, Julie Rrap, to name a few) and reappeared in 1999, when Engberg also included her in the Melbourne International Biennial 1999. Over the next twenty-four years, Opie’s work would barely be seen in Australia. Only six of her works have been acquired by Australian institutions (two by the Art Gallery of New South Wales and four by the Art Gallery of Western Australia). Back at Heide, three decades later, Catherine Opie: Binding Ties, curated by Brooke Babington, is the artist’s first major survey show in Australia—long overdue for one of the most internationally celebrated American photographers of our time.

The exhibition is a mix of fifty works from a range of series made between 1993 and 2020. It begins with six large-scaled studio portraits from the ongoing series Portraits and Landscapes, four of which are presented in large black oval frames. Beginning in 2012, the series documents sitters whom Opie includes in every body of work, and evidently admires, along with prominent People of Colour, queer folk, artists, and friends. We see her long-term collaborator Pig Pen (aka Stosh Fila), for example, kissing their partner, performance artist Julie Tolentino. Other sitters include established American artist Kara Walker; Rocco Kayiatos, who co-founded Original Plumbing, an important early cheeky quarterly mag for trans men; and a power couple—museum curator Thelma Golden standing next to her husband, fashion designer Duru Olowu.

To read for free enter your email address.

Log in with your registered email address.

Memo can continue to publish free, quality, and independent weekly art criticism with the support of our readers. Consider becoming a Patreon supporter or making a donation.