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“Pictures Girls Make”: Portraitures at Blum & Poe


Figuration has been en vogue in recent years in the art world, but Blum & Poe’s ambitious new exhibition, curated by Alison M. Gingeras, focuses specifically on portraiture, and the vast history of the genre. Including almost 60 artists ranging from the 19th century to the present day, the exhibition’s cheeky name “Pictures Girls Make”: Portraitures hails from a dismissive quip that artist Willem de Kooning made about his wife Elaine DeKooning’s portrait paintings. While the exhibition includes both men and women, a feminist reclaiming of the genre can be felt throughout. 

One gallery that features nudes (both male and female) is subtitled on the gallery map “If women can be odalisques, so can men.” The show also makes points to right the false history that white men have dominated the genre by highlighting an early portrait by female artists (ie. Caterina van Hemessen), and paying homage to black painters that have been overlooked (ie. Joshua Johnson). Refreshingly, the show doesn’t attempt to revise the canon by only showing works that have been left out. Rather, it intersperses these works with household names (de Kooning among them) to create a diverse vision of art history that is more inclusive than the one we are often given. 

“Pictures Girls Make”: Portraitures, Installation view, 2023. Blum & Poe, Los Angeles. ©Theartists; Courtesy of the artists and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/NewYork/Tokyo. Photo: Evan Walsh.