Without explicitly privileging either tendency as the basis of her practice, Catherine Opie at once underscores the everydayness of her subjects and transcends this everydayness with an unrelenting elegance of form. Recent series such as Icehouses (2001) and Surfers (2003) have cemented Opie's interest in elevating her subjects without alienating them from their found context, so that the remarkable poise and poignancy of the finished photograph reads as the fortunate yield of an essentially documental impulse. For the viewer, the result is a gradual, deliberate attainment of intimacy with the environment at hand and its population. The revelation of the subject's humanity feels hard-earned and yet inevitable.
In her latest series of photographs, entitled High School Football, Opie captures the "football cultures" of various schools throughout the U.S. via a combination of close-up portraits and sweeping landscapes. Blunt and unaffected, the portraits allow the faces of these high school boys to speak complexly for themselves-to speak of the emotive and psychological underpinnings of an age and a very American practice. The landscapes, often saturated with thick rain or lit theatrically with rows of stadium lights, carry a far more specific and elaborate narrative potential. They situate us convincingly in a mood and a type of place. Upon these grand and somehow formal stages, we watch the ritual of the game unfold with all the bombast and banality of high school.
- Nico Machida
(Images top-bottom: Catherine Opie; Courtesy the Artist & Regen Projects, LA)