Based in Los Angeles, photographer Catherine Opie (b. 1961) presents two different aspects of Southern California living in the bodies of work currently on view and curated by the artist: 700 Nimes Road (2010–11) and the Freeway series (1994–95). The former, a portrait of the late actress Elizabeth Taylor, was taken over six months at her Bel-Air residence, just before and after the actress’s hospitalization and eventual death in 2011. The photographs of rooms, closets, shoes, clothing, and jewelry create an indirect yet deeply intimate portrait of a woman whose life was defined by wealth and fame. The project is, in the artist’s words, not about the relationship to celebrity but about “the relationship to what is human.” The Freeway series was inspired by Opie’s daily commute in the mid-1990s, when she recognized the beauty of the California highway system. The series focuses on freeways as icons of Southern California and provokes viewers to reconsider structures that govern their daily movement. Opie imbues the works with a kind of timelessness veering towards abstraction, with swooping overpasses set against muted skies. In many images, the freeway structures look like all that remains of human culture in some post-apocalyptic future.
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