Geoff Tuck reviews Katie Herzog’s Transtextuality (SB48) in Notes on Looking 7.21.13

Katie Herzog at Night Gallery

by Geoff Tuck

There is a potential to be overwhelmed when one walks into a compact gallery that is hung with close portraits. All those probing eyes, all of those objectified humans… The apotheosis of this effect may be Gerhard Richter’s 48 Portraits, a group of paintings (which were derived from encyclopedia photographs) of serious and seriously dead intellectuals. Given the time in which Richter was working, and perhaps given the artist’s inclinations, all his people are white and male. They look imposing, and slightly antique. Their seriousness makes the work of the mind seem a charmless endeavor.

Contrasting this, walking into Katie Herzog’s I was struck at how friendly most of her faces seem. Nearly all are smiling, and they look like human beings I might want to meet. All are transgender, and their nationalities and ethnicities are so diverse that such considerations seem immaterial.

Like Richter, Herzog derives her own panoply from encyclopedic sources, Herzog’s being Wikipedia and internet search engines. In this way, also like her predecessor, the younger artist reflects her time, and the 21st Century move away from books dedicated sources of information.

In this new show, Transtextuality (SB 48), I think that Katie Herzog is once again following her inclination to depict knowledge as approachable, by making her people friendly and interesting. I am reminded of her long-term project of depicting libraries, and that in them, as in these new paintings, she treats information – be it science, or literature, or etc. – as an endeavor of humanity, rather than of gods and masters.

Katie Herzog, Transtextuality (SB 48) is on view at Night Gallery through August 3.

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