Dykes! Tutus! Off-ramps! The Guggenheim Mounts a Catherine Opie Retrospective

A freeway to her scars in American Photographer

Think Manet: Divinity Fudge, 1997
Courtesy Catherine Opie and Regen Projects, Los Angeles
Think Manet: Divinity Fudge, 1997


'Catherine Opie: American Photographer'
The Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue
Through January 7

The mid-career retrospective is often a mixed blessing: a monument to youthful achievement couched as a scary signal that your best days may be behind you. In the case of Opie, I take the outcome personally. In the mid-'90s, I liked her work so much that the band I was in used one of her freeway photographs for a CD cover. Revisiting her oeuvre now, I am impressed by how she's mixed technical chops with critical theory (she is, after all, a product of the '80s and early '90s) and an activist's humanity. Sure, I'm disappointed by the recent work. But I'm pulling for an Opie comeback, since, as Oliver in a Tutu shows, the domesticated art-professor mom still has teeth, even if they're no longer as sharp as scalpels.

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