The Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery is pleased to present Character Reference a group show featuring an international group of contemporary artists.

The portrait as a genre has enjoyed an enduring popularity throughout the history of art.  As depictions of power and wealth, or socialist realist studies, through its current pervasiveness in contemporary photography, the portrait has long played a key role in creating and questioning identity. Through the works in Character Reference the artists Oliver Laric, MTAA, Julian Opie, Lee Walton and Marina Zurkow all mine this rich genre. These artists do not simply employ the portrait as a means to depict specific individuals but rather use the form to represent broader cultural types.

Oliver Laric’s 787 Cliparts uses as building blocks the “clip art” which can be found embedded in Microsoft Word documents and Power Point presentations world over. These prepackaged images are seamlessly streamed together in a continuous dance to convey and question how diverse cultures and activities are stereotyped in the name of convenient communication.

MTAA’s Infinite Smile is a video portrait in which the artists’ faces hold a smile in an infinitely repeating loop. Their expressions, appear to change from glee to agony and back, highlighting the artifice of the smile and its function as a seller of goods and ideology, an indicator of happiness, and how we project our own assumptions on to the ubiquitous happy face.   

In Julian Opie’s Suzanne Walking in Leather Skirt and Sarah Walking in Bra, Pants and Boots, female characters are rendered in the artist’s signature generic, minimalist style.  These sexually charged portraits of women in underwear and short skirts conveys a connection to the specific subjects while simultaneously representing the stereotypical and loaded symbols of female sexuality.

To create Lee Walton’s The Serial Conversationalist, Walton targeted park benches throughout New York City on specific dates and times and initiated conversation with whoever happened to sit down.  Often awkward and pained, Walton’s recordings of these conversations with random strangers about kids, dogs and other New York wildlife help inform a portrait of a city and how it establishes and solidifies our understanding of the characters around us.  

Likewise, Marina Zurkow’s animated Boom!Darling looks at the formation of character against the backdrop of a hyper-active urban environment. Through this short animation we see a girl on the edge of puberty exploring her own identity in the booming metropolis of current day Shanghai – a city which is similarly experiencing “growing pains” in the current global economy.    

Seen as a whole the works in Character Reference represent a broadened view of the portrait genre.  Using this historically rich convention in new ways the artists are able to portray their subjects as much more than they appear.  

Participating Artists:

Vienna based Oliver Laric works in video, audio, painting and photography as well as fashion and publishing.  At this point not widely known in the art world, his numerous videos, which have been widely viewed on YouTube, have garnered him enormous popularity on the Internet. 

Artists M. River and T. Whid formed MTAA in 1996 and soon after began to explore the internet as a medium for public art. The duo have shown at The New Museum of Contemporary Art, Postmasters Gallery and Artists Space, all in New York City, and at The Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. International exhibitions include the Seoul Net & Film Festival in Korea and Videozone2 - The 2nd International Video Art Biennial in Israel. The collaboration has also earned grants and awards from, Eyebeam, New Radio & Performing Arts, Inc. and The Whitney Museum’s Artport web site.

Julian Opie is a British sculptor, painter, installation and video artist.  World-renowned for his minimalist style his work has been exhibited in numerous solo shows (most recently at the ICA in Boston), and public art commissions (including the highly regarded Public Art Fund project, “Animals, buildings, cars and people” in New York City).  His work has also appeared in countless group exhibitions including the Shanghai Biennale, the National Gallery in London and Tate Britain. 

Lee Walton's work takes many forms- from drawings on paper, game/system based structures, video, web-based performances, public projects, theatrical orchestrations and more. Walton has exhibited widely at international venues including the Reykjavik Art Museum, Iceland, Havana Biennial, Cuba, and Island #6 in China, and in the US at venues including the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and  Art In General, Socrates Sculpture Park, Performa 05, and Krashaar Gallery in New York. 

Marina Zurkow is a New York based artist whose animations and installations have been exhibited at Sundance, the Rotterdam Film Festival, Ars Electronica, Creative Time, The Kitchen, the Walker Art Center, the Brooklyn Museum, SFMoMA, Eyebeam Atelier, and bitforms gallery, and has been broadcast on MTV, Fuji TV and PBS. She is a 2005 NYFA Fellow, a 2003 Rockefeller New Media Fellow, and received grants in 2005 from the New York State Council on the Arts, and in 2001-2002 from Creative Capital, the Jerome Foundation and the Walker Art Center. She teaches at NYU's Interactive Technology Program (ITP) and lives in Brooklyn.