Tasked by Lawndale Art Center with putting together a show of portraits by up-and-coming photographers, Chuy Benitez knew he needed to take the idea a step further. ''This is the Me Generation,'' he says. “Everybody has a Facebook page. We all have an allegiance to ‘me’ rather than to any flag or idea. So I decided to focus on self-portraits.” The result is “The Photographic Mirror,” an exhibit of work by some 18 photographers.
“Before you point your camera at anyone else, you have to point it at yourself,” says Benitez. “Besides, I wanted to show work that doesn’t get to be seen very often. Photographers, even the ones that concentrate on portraiture professionally, rarely exhibit self-portraits.”
Benitez says some photographers stand out, not only because of the images they created but because of the stories surrounding them. One is Tala Vahabzadeh, an Iranian woman. Living in the United States for many years, Vahabzadeh recently returned to Iran for a family visit. “She’s being detained by the authorities there now. She can’t leave the country,” says Benitez. “She doesn’t know if it’s because they’ve seen her photographs or not, but she really wanted to participate in the show, so she had to send me these tiny JPEGS attached to e-mails that were small enough to go unnoticed by the Internet police.” Vahabzadeh contributed a series of shadowy images of a woman wearing and removing a traditional burka. Another is Chisum Pierce, who creates paparazzi-like shots of his celebrity alter ego. One work is a faux-magazine cover with a large photo of Cain in the nude, text strategically placed over his privates and a headline screaming, “How Cain Stays Thin!” Next to that, there’s a close-up of him, mouth wide open as if screaming. Over it, the headline reads, “Co-Cain Crazy in the Caribbean!” It’s all done very tongue-in-cheek, but backed by some very serious thought, says Benitez.
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There’s an opening reception with the artists at 6 p.m. Friday. Regular viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Through April 14. 4912 Main. For information, call 713-528-5858 or visit www.lawndaleartcenter.org. Free.
Mondays-Saturdays. Starts: March 9. Continues through April 14, 2012