Art from 21c is beginning to trickle into Bentonville. In addition to the Cracking Art Group’s pink snails invading the Bentonville Square, the pre-opening office is providing a preview of contemporary art from 21c with Portraits from the Collection.
Portraiture today has evolved from a historical tradition of depicting self and status to increasingly conceptual multi-media investigations into the complex nature of identity and consciousness within a range of social, political, and aesthetic contexts. The subjects included here range from self-portraits to images of the famous, the obscure, and the imagined. The face of the young boy that emerges from CutUp’s repurposed advertising poster is a projection, a symbol of anguished youth, while Alain Declerq’s R.I.P. Sarkozy—the result of 4500 bullets shot into pine wood—is a portrait of frustration with the media and politics, as well as of the former French president’s recent exit from a world stage.
German Gomez’s collage is derived from photos of different bodies and faces; his composite self-portrait illustrates a multi-faceted identity. Pierre Gonnord photographs people living outside of mainstream society, creating transformative images that recall the paintings of Caravaggio, Goya, and Velasquez.
Costumes and lighting also transform the subjects of Erwin Olaf’s and Vee Speers’ works, the latter enacting childhood role-play. An idealized identity is invoked in Seydou Keita’s African portraits–often set against brilliant patterned backgrounds and including Western propos—document a time when the people of Mali defined themselves on the edge of modernity.
Intimate self-revelation animates both Sam Taylor-Wood’s fantasy of levitating in her studio and Chris Radtke’s minimalist self-portrait. The shattered glass spilling in and around the sculpture is equal to the artist’s weight, giving an abstract, exterior form to her most internal self.
The 21c Museum Hotel pre-opening office is located at 207 NE 2nd St while the property is under construction. The pre-opening gallery will be open for a sneak peak this weekend, June 1–3, 2012.