Informed by early exposure to both the populist eye of Annie Leibovitz and the formal austerity of Bernd and Hilla Becher, Martin Schoeller’s photographic portraits fill the rooms of Ace Gallery Beverly Hills with a tone of accessible gravity. Schoeller’s subjects are mostly familiar—well-known actors, politicians, musicians—and every so often unrecognizable; but all are presented via an unflinching close-up that at once decontextualizes and sharpens its contents.
As a result, each C-print proves a compelling visual text in its own right, an opportunity to precisely examine the complexities and contradictions of faces. But when hung in a large group, as they are now at Ace Gallery Beverly Hills, Schoeller’s photographs take on a haunting prosthetic agency, as if gazing back at the viewer from so many points.Their sustained intensity is at once potent and uncanny, especially in the Gallery’s vast central space, where the iconic Jack Nicholson (2002) joins the disfigured anonymity of Joseph Mosner (2004) in a panopticonic chorus of fixed, searching eyes. Here, as everywhere in the show, one crisp, frank, monumental image is arrayed after another, cohered around a logic of rigorous seriality, a potent spareness. One almost forgets that many of these are famous faces, as it becomes increasingly clear that Schoeller’s deft, assured representational style is very much this show’s point.
(Images, from top to bottom: Martin Schoeller, Close Up
, September 8 - October 13, 2007, Ace Gallery, Joseph Mosner
, 2004, C-Print, 62 1/2 x 51 in, Edition of 3, Courtesy of Martin Schoeller and Ace Gallery. Martin Schoeller, Close Up
, September 8 - October 13, 2007, Ace Gallery, Jack Nicholson
, 2002, C-Print, 62 1/2 x 51 in, Edition of 3, Courtesy of Martin Schoeller and Ace Gallery.)