new-york

Catherine Opie

Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

Catherine Opie began her “public” artistic career in 1991 with a series of thirteen photographs titled “Being and Having.” The title was a seeming allusion to Jacques Lacan’s contentious psychoanalytic system that posits women as “being” the phallus, and men as “having” it. Rejecting outright such heterosexist structuralism, Opie’s staged “documentary” portraits depicted (and thereby demarcated) a community organized around its members’ identifications with butch-dyke, queer, trans, and s/m politics. But the photos never seemed to represent “identity politics” proper, which, at least in its most vulgar manifestations, has always been about essentialism and the presupposition of a subject (a “doer behind the deed,” per Nietzsche, via Judith Butler, who in the early 1990s was building her own powerful critique of Lacan’s presumptively “straight” model). On the contrary, Opie’s images—while

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