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Exhibition turns the table on contemporary artists
Kiki Smith, 2008 Charcoal, pastel, and white chalk

COLUMBIA, SC.- The Columbia Museum of Art presents the exhibition Face Value: Artists’ Portraits by Alphonse van Woerkom, featuring the titular artist’s outsized drawings of New York contemporary art luminaries, on view Friday, October 6, through Sunday, November 26, 2017. Consisting of 11 works on paper that stand at nearly eight feet tall, Face Value showcases the artist’s fascination with other artists, his impressive draftsmanship, the exploration of identity, and the relationship between scale and meaning.

“The relationship between artist and subject is an interesting one. What happens when the subject is an artist as well?” says Will South, CMA chief curator. “Beyond that, what can a face—and the interpretation of that face—reveal? Alphonse explores these questions in a manner that is both bold and nuanced.”

Seven of the nine artists featured in the exhibition are also represented in the CMA collection: Pat Steir, Sam Gilliam, William T. Williams, Chuck Close, Kiki Smith, Elizabeth Catlett, and Ida Appelbroog (the other two artists being Molissa Fenley and Fred Wilson).

After spending time with icon and fellow Dutch artist Willem de Kooning, who impressed upon Van Woerkom the paradoxical intimacy of large-scale art, he began the grand portrait project that would become Face Value. The exhibition labels, written by Van Woerkom himself, are brief accounts of his experience creating the portraits, often interacting with the subjects in their own studios. This conversational narrative, providing a glimpse into the inner worlds and idiosyncrasies of some of the biggest names on the New York art scene, reinforces the intimacy of the large-scale images.
A master of the medium, Van Woerkom uses a wide variety of drawing techniques. The result is a likeness that is realistic yet full of evocative and provocative marks. Visitors will see up close the artist’s methods and how they come together to form powerful images.

“Each one of Alphonse’s portraits,” South says, “is an example of how the humble materials of pencil and paper, combined with the complexities of a human face, can be transformed into a monumental work of art.”

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Exhibition turns the table on contemporary artists

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