Yasumasa Morimura, Self-Portrait (Actress), After Charlotte Rampling, The Night Porter, 1994. Cibachrome print, 29.5 x 24.5 in, edition 19/25. Reed College Art Collection, gift of the Peter Norton Collection.

No Face, No Case: Portraiture’s Breaking

Image Gallery Exhibition File

September 9 - December 5, 2021

For visiting appointments, please email: cooley@reed.edu 

How do we relate to images of the self when the self is in a state of breakdown? How do we contend with artworks that claim to represent others? These are some of the central concerns of the Cooley Gallery exhibition No Face, No Case: Portraiture’s Breaking. Composed of painting, photography, sculpture, and video, the works in the exhibition confront portraiture’s complex historical status as a site of power, capital, and innocence. Made by a group of visionary artists between 1990 and 2005, the works in No Face, No Case demand a reconsideration of portraiture’s agency and legibility. The works also speak to police and government surveillance tactics intended to accuse individuals by capturing their faces. So while many of the works in No Face, No Case may not look or feel like portraiture, they all force an encounter with the self.

The works in the exhibition were donated to the Reed College Art Collection by the Peter Norton Collection. Peter Norton is a Reed College alumnus (class of ’65), emeritus trustee, celebrated arts patron, and philanthropist who became a serious art collector in the late 1980s, commissioning the work of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC artists during the AIDS crisis and the Culture Wars, and supporting major museum exhibitions—most notably the Black Male exhibition organized by then Whitney curator Thelma Golden, which took place at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1994.

No Face, No Case: Portraiture’s Breaking was organized by the No Face No Case Collective—the fifteen students and three instructors of the fall 2020 Reed College Art History course Making an Exhibition. including Cooley curator Stephanie Snyder. The collective carefully researched and considered the more than seventy works of art donated to the college by Norton. This included the close reading of art historical, philosophical, and critical texts that elucidated the conceptual underpinnings of Norton’s collecting project. The curators’ experience of researching No Face, No Case was incontrovertibly influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the national reckoning with anti-black racism that defined 2020. Working over Zoom, the curators struggled to communicate through the software’s often pixelated, uncanny limitations. These conditions mirror the increasingly refracted, serialized, and revolutionary nature of contemporary visual culture.

Artists: Laura Aguilar; Nayland Blake; Georganne Deen; Omer Fast; Ann Hamilton; Jim Hodges; Y.Z. Kami; Mariko Mori; Yasumasa Morimura; Catherine Opie; Andres Serrano; Gary Simmons; and Nari Ward.

No Face, No Case: Portraiture’s Breaking is presented as part of the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s 2021 Time-Based Art Festival. The Cooley extends its warmest thanks to PICA for over fifteen years of generative collaboration.