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Solo exhibition of new photographs by Matthew Rolston opens at Diane Rosenstein Fine Art
Matthew Rolston, Anonyma Boy (from Talking Heads), 2010, Pigment print, 60 x 60 inches © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc. Courtesy of the artist and Diane Rosenstein Fine Art, Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Diane Rosenstein Fine Art announces Talking Heads, a solo exhibition of new photographs by Matthew Rolston. This is Matthew Rolston’s first solo exhibition with the gallery.

Matthew Rolston: Talking Heads presents monumental color portraits of dummies chosen from a collection of nearly seven hundred ventriloquists dolls (dating from 1820 –1980) housed at the Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. In 2010, Rolston set up a portrait studio at the museum and photographed each of his subjects in an identical manner: square format, low angle, monochromatic backdrop, and a single light source. The resulting photographs are grounded in a visual vocabulary articulated by Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, and Andy Warhol; they also invoke the classic tropes of Pygmalian: energize the inanimate, and in so doing, infuse them with an idiosyncratic and expressive humanity. The photographer argues on behalf of our collective humanity, and he offers the gaze of these portraits as an avenue of connection.

The Talking Heads exhibition presents larger-than-life prints measuring sixty inches square, including Anonyma Boy (2010), who bears an unmistakable resemblance to Avedon’s 1969 portrait of Andy Warhol. An edited series of smaller photographs present Pancho (2010), a hazel-eyed Everyman who regards us with the weariness and candor of a performer who has spent his life on the road. Noisy Crachini (2010) is the bejeweled centerpiece of a monumental triptych that depicts a high society trio: the gentlemen are cosmopolitan swells, wearing white ties and top hats, but their poignant expressions bring into question the nature of this delightful ménage.

The depiction of masks, dolls, dummies, and mannequins is an enduring subject of immense art historical significance. Matthew Rolston’s Talking Heads continue a diverse art- making tradition, from ancient Egyptian Fayum panel paintings in the Greco-Roman era, Roman busts and plaster death masks, to sculptures by Charles Ray, Robert Gober and Paul McCarthy. Recently, contemporary artists have elevated the practice of re-photographing sculptural figures, and Mr. Rolston’s Vent Haven portraits engage in a dialogue with Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Portraits series (such as Henry VIII, 1999) as well as Cindy Sherman’s Sex Pictures series (1992), though from a substantially different ideological context.

In the late 1970s, while still at student in photography at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, Rolston was hired by Andy Warhol to make portraits for Interview magazine. At the time, Mr. Warhol was painting a series of square portraits of celebrities and members of the social elite. Upon reflection, Rolston agrees that his Talking Heads are a tribute to his mentor: they pay homage to Warhol’s composition and vivid coloration; his unconventional “Superstars”; and especially, his affection for American craft and folk art.

Matthew Rolston: Talking Heads will be on view through July 12th.

Matthew Rolston (USA, b. 1955) is an artist who works in photography and video; his practice centers on portraiture, most notably subjects drawn from celebrity culture. Rolston, who lives and works in Los Angeles, studied at Chouinard Art Institute (Los Angeles, California) and Otis College of Art & Design (Los Angeles, California). In 2006, he received an Honorary Doctorate from Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, California) where he had studied photography from 1976-1978. While still a student at Art Center, Rolston was discovered by Andy Warhol, who immediately commissioned portraits for Interview magazine. Thus began an extraordinary career; and for the next 25 years, Matthew Rolston’s photographs were published in Interview, Vogue, W, Harper’s Bazaar, and over 100 covers of Rolling Stone.

Along with his friend Herb Ritts, Rolston was a member (with Bruce Weber and Annie Liebovitz) of an influential group of photographers to emerge from the 1980’s magazine scene. Rolston’s early photographs from this era are notable for their distinctive and glamorous lighting style, surrealistic tableaus, and detail-rich sets. His imagery has helped define contemporary aesthetics of American portrait photography and truly embodies modern glamour.

Robert Sobieszek, the legendary former Curator of Photography for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), compared Rolston’s work to the "four mega-greats of the '50s and '60s: Avedon, Hiro, Penn and Skrebneski…I think Rolston is one of the foremost editorial, glamour/fashion photographers working today," he said, "giving us immensely sophisticated, exciting, glamorous shots and portraits that surround us daily."

Matthew Rolston is also a filmmaker who works in video. Recently, his short film The Most Beautiful Woman in the World (2011, color, 3:00 min) screened as part of SF Shorts: The San Francisco International Festival of Short Films (2013), among others. Last spring, The Whitney Museum of American Art (as part of Blues for Smoke) screened Whatta Man (1994, color, 4:52 min) in Through the Lens of the Blues Aesthetic: An Evening of Short Films Selected by Kevin Everson (April, 2013). Other films include Be Without You (2005, color, 4:09 min) for which he won “Best Director” (MTV Video Music Awards, 2006); and Candyman (2007, color, 3:18 min) for which he won (with Christina Aguilera ) “Best Director” (MTV Video Music Awards, 2007).

Rolston’s photographs have been exhibited at museums and institutions. Selected group shows include Beauty CULTure (with Lauren Greenfield, Herb Ritts, Andres Serrano, and Carrie Mae Weems, 2011), The Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles, California; The Warhol Look: Glamour, Style, Fashion (curated by Mark Francis and Margery King), The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1997); and Fashion and Surrealism, FIT Gallery, New York, 1987 (traveled to the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK, 1988). His photographs are in the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the National Portrait Gallery (Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture
at The Smithsonian, Washington D.C.).

Three monographs have been published of Rolston’s work: Big Pictures, A Book of Photographs (1991), a collection of early photographs (introduction by Tim Burton) published by Bulfinch Press, New York; beautyLIGHT, Pictures at a Magazine (2008), a survey of twenty years of Rolston’s celebrity portrait photographs, published by teNeues, Germany; and most recently, Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits (2012), published by Pointed Leaf Press, New York, which accompanies this exhibition.

In 1998, Mr. Rolston endowed the “Matthew Rolston Scholarship for Photography and Film,” at Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California. He remains actively involved in this program, as a mentor and guest lecturer. Matthew Rolston is represented by both Diane Rosenstein Fine Art and Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles.

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