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Duane Michals, Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York
Duane Michals (American, born 1932), Meryl Streep, 1975, gelatin silver print with hand-applied text, 5 x 7 ΒΌ inches
Aug 24, 2022
throughNov 18, 2022

Duane Michals: the Portraitist

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Duane Michals: The Portraitist is on view in the Harnett Museum of Art, August 24 through November 18, 2022. The exhibition presents the first comprehensive overview of inventive photographic portraits by one of the medium’s most influential artists. Best known as a pioneer who broke away from established traditions of documentary photography in the 1960s, Michals is widely recognized for his ability to navigate between imposing his style and allowing his sitters to express themselves, and for the sequences he assembles to convey personal visual narratives, often adding handwritten messages and poems on the photographic print surface.

About the Exhibition

More than 125 portraits are included in the exhibition, many of which were recently discovered in a workroom in his brownstone building in New York City. Frequently commissioned to create portraits of actors, writers, musicians, and others, Michals relished the challenge of distinguishing each personality with an improvisational approach. Among the wide ranging selection for the exhibition are images of Pop artist Andy Warhol with his mother Julia Warhola (1958), musicians Benny Goodman and Branford Marsalis (1970s, the latter is an album cover, shot and designed by Michals), the original cast of “Saturday Night Live” (1970s), actors Meryl Streep (1975) and Jeremy Irons (1981), director Francis Ford Coppola (1982), fellow portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz (1990s), writers John Cheever and Eugene Ionesco (both 1991), performer and activist Eartha Kitt (2007), the creative siblings David and Amy Sedaris (2000s), and actor Tilda Swinton (2016). Collectively the prints reveal the artist’s spontaneity and highlight his expansive toolkit of techniques, including multiple exposures, reflections, uncommon vantage points, collage, hand-painting and more, to create a unique image.

Duane Michals (American, born 1932) is one of the great photographic innovators of the last century, widely known for his work with series, multiple exposures, and text. Michals first made significant, creative strides in the field of photography during the 1960s. In an era heavily influenced by photojournalism, he manipulated the medium to communicate narratives. The sequences, for which he is widely known, appropriate cinema’s frame-by-frame format. He has also incorporated text as a key component in his works. Rather than serving a didactic or explanatory function, his handwritten text adds another dimension to the images’ meaning and gives voice to Michals’ singular musings, which are poetic, tragic, and humorous, often all at once.

Michals’ work belongs to numerous permanent collections in the U.S. and abroad, including the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Duane Michals archive is housed at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.

The exhibition was organized by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions and curated by Linda Benedict-Jones, former photography curator at the Carnegie Museum of Art, and currently adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University. The exhibition and programs are made possible in part with funds from the University’s Cultural Affairs Committee and funds from the Louis S. Booth Arts Fund.

Duane Michals opening talk