A review of “A Closer Look: Portraits from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection” at Pivot Art + Culture in Seattle, which hangs photos and paintings together by such artists and photographers as John Coplans, David Hockney and Guy Tillim.
One of the portraits in Guy Tillim’s series depicting child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The real showstopper among the 70-odd pictures in Pivot Art + Culture Gallery’s just-opened portrait exhibition is a group of John Coplans’ close-up photographs of his own hands. The four enormous prints focus on the interlacing of the artist’s hairy, wrinkled fingers, which here become stand-ins for all manner of fleshly couplings. The images call into question the conventional canons of portraiture: Does the artist identify so closely with his hands? Is he celebrating, or bemoaning, their lumpy physicality?
Truth to tell, there are not many surprises in the enjoyable, but unexceptional, “A Closer Look,” entirely composed of art on loan from software mogul and arts patron, Paul Allen. The depth of Allen’s holdings is such that another show of his art will come to town while the Pivot exhibit is still hanging, and that exhibit is on another level entirely. The selection of Allen’s landscape paintings coming to SAM in early 2017 is a stellar grouping of signature works by artists ranging from Breughel (the Younger) to Magritte, any of which SAM would love to be given.