Duane Michals: The Portraitist

 In Past Exhibitions


September 14 – November 10, 2019

Duane Michals: The Portraitist presents the first comprehensive overview of inventive photographic portraits by one of the medium’s most influential artists. Best known as a pioneer who broke away from established traditions of documentary photography in the 1960s, Michals is widely recognized for his ability to navigate between imposing his style and allowing his sitters to express themselves, and for the sequences he assembles to convey personal visual narratives, often adding handwritten messages and poems on the photographic print surface.

More than 125 portraits by this beloved photographer are included in Duane Michals: The Portraitist, many of which were recently discovered in a workroom in his brownstone building in New York City. Frequently commissioned to create portraits of actors, writers, musicians, and others, Michals relished the challenge of distinguishing each personality with an improvisational approach. Collectively the prints reveal the artist’s spontaneity and highlight his expansive toolkit of techniques, including multiple exposures, reflections, uncommon vantage points, collage, hand-painting and more, to create a unique image.

The diversity of personalities, along with the tremendous variety of photographic approaches, creates a nourishing visual experience and, as always, the works by master photographer Duane Michals do not cease to surprise and delight.



DUANE MICHALS, born in McKeesport, PA, in 1932 is one of the great photographic innovators of the last century, widely known for his work with series, multiple exposures, and text.

Michals first made significant, creative strides in the field of photography during the 1960s. In an era heavily influenced by photojournalism, he manipulated the medium to communicate narratives. The sequences, for which he is widely known, appropriate cinema’s frame-by-frame format. He has also incorporated text as a key component in his works. Rather than serving a didactic or explanatory function, his handwritten text adds another dimension to the images’ meaning and gives voice to Michals’s singular musings, which are poetic, tragic, and humorous, often all at once.

Michals’s work belongs to numerous permanent collections in the U.S. and abroad, including the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Michals’s archive is housed at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.

Sponsored in part by NYCM Insurance.




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