Considering Andy Warhol’s intimate-yet-impersonal Polaroid portraits and Ralph Gibson’s abstracted formal studies of inanimate objects included in The Wet Archive alongside Polaroids by Robert Mapplethorpe and Patricia Cronin, this essay reckons with the seemingly paradoxical possibilities of the formal device of the close-up. The photographic close-up promises direct understanding, an almost contact with the subject it brings before us.. But our leaning-in produces an intimacy that is also distancing, a proximity that also alienates. Within the space of encounter, the close-up holds out possibilities for unsettling representation while also producing new forms of relating across difference – intimate forms of contact that pull us in while they push beyond the frame.
Lex Lancaster is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Art History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Lex’s dissertation, Dragging Away: The Queer Work of Abstraction in Contemporary Art, focuses on the work of contemporary queer and feminist artists who are activating the alternative aesthetic, historical, and political possibilities of abstraction.
Check back for additional essays published over the course of the show!