One might typically think of portraiture as focusing on the human figure, primarily in one medium, technique, or culture. Here Olowu brings together a diverse cast of subjects, styles, and artistic media. Olowu challenges the idea of what a portrait can be, refusing to dismiss artworks that don’t represent our idea of traditional portraiture. By showing photography, painting, and sculpture together, he values them all equally, doing away with notions of hierarchy.
A second look at Olowu’s arrangements rewards the viewer with new ways of seeing. In some cases, there are lines, shapes, forms, and patterns that will emerge—in others, you may notice repeated themes such as ideals of beauty across time and culture. For example, sculptures by Simone Leigh (American, b. 1968) using elements of traditional African art are set in front of black-and-white photographs: Sophie Calle’s (French, b. 1953) The Striptease and Lorraine O’Grady’s (American, b. 1983) Miscegenated Family Album, contrasting aspects of ancient Egyptian sculpture and portrayals of contemporary women.