|February 26 - April 10, 2009|
“Kathleen Gilje: 48 Portraits / Sargent’s Women, Restored,” opens at Francis M. Naumann Fine Art on February 26, 2009 (and runs through April 10, 2009).
Kathleen Gilje’s new series of paintings presents forty-eight portraits of women “excised” and “stripped bare” from paintings by the great American portraitist John Singer Sargent. The first impression these pictures are likely to evoke is of Andy Warhol’s serial imagery, for when viewed en masse, the women are homogenized into a single visual unit. But when they are understood as separate portraits—which, in fact, they are—the individuality of each sitter inevitably emerges. Seen in this way, a more appropriate comparison is Gerhard Richter’s 48 Portraits, which depict famous men selected from pictures in a German encyclopedia. In making a series comprising 48 portraits, Gilje clearly invites this comparison. Just as Richter immortalizes the accomplishments of men during a given period in history, Gilje suggests that the women in Sargent’s paintings also deserve recognition, not because they were married or connected to prominent men (which was why Sargent was commissioned to paint their portraits), but because they were—above all—individuals. She accomplishes this by denuding them of their lavish clothing, thereby liberating them from their confining social status and visual imprisonment in Sargent’s paintings.