During the past seven years, Los Angeles-based photographer Catherine Opie has undertaken a project in which she has systematically photographed key elements in several major American cities. Steeped in the documentary tradition and seeking to uncover aspects of each city’s identity and sense of community in her penetrating photographs, this series focuses on Chicago—the American “city of architecture.” This new body of work examines the spectacular way the city’s architectural monuments are nocturnally lit, complemented by a group of views of Lake Michigan at different seasons during the year. While the architectural photographs are horizontally formatted in black and white, Opie’s views of the lakefront are large-format color images, which enhance the lake’s changing light qualities and moods. These images present a nuanced vision of key aspects of Chicago’s identity in a revelatory and unexpected way that reflects an intermingled formal, conceptual, and documentary emphasis.
This project is curated by James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs Elizabeth Smith, who also curated Opie’s first solo museum exhibition in 1997.