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Art People: The Pageant Portraits

////Art People: The Pageant Portraits

Art People: The Pageant Portraits

Kicking off the Pageant of the Masters 85th anniversary celebration, we are pleased to announce a new exhibit in Los Angeles featuring portraits of Pageant of the Masters volunteers by famous celebrity photographer Matthew Rolston. See details below.


On View October 27, 2017 through February 23, 2018

Ralph Pucci L.A. is pleased to present Art People: The Pageant Portraits, an exhibition of new works by acclaimed photographer Matthew Rolston. The exhibition is based around a groundbreaking series that furthers Rolston’s investigations into the nature of portraiture and the methods in which society and the human condition are mediated through artwork and art creation. Comprised of intimate portraits of participants of “Pageant of the Masters”, an annual arts festival held in Laguna Beach, California, Rolston’s photographic subjects reenact pivotal historical figures and works from art history, from antiquity through 20th century modernism. In these photographs, Rolston uses his distinct grasp of photography to trace a densely referential lineage of protagonists, connecting aspects of his own portraiture to the fragile boundaries between reality, artifice, the animate and inanimate.

Donning elaborately designed and painted costumes and body paint made to either flatten or enhance their dimensionality, participants of the long running “Pageant of the Masters” stem from all walks of life and social backgrounds. Operating within a space of theatrical performance, the Pageant is best known for its famed tableau vivant presentations of art masterpieces, which Rolston began documenting on editorial assignment for The Wall Street Journal in 2015. Growing familiar with members of the Pageant, he gained privileged access to the performers, spending several weeks photographing them in a makeshift studio set up backstage during the run of the show. In their Pageant costumes and makeup, dressed as figures taken from works by Da Vinci, Fragonard, Frishmuth, Matisse, Rivera, Hockney and many more, these performers posed for their portraits away from the painted sets and stage lighting of the Pageant, drawing attention to their unique human characteristics. Each photograph is activated through a deep sense of intimacy with its subject, utilizing painterly lighting and featuring Rolston’s mastery of color harmonies – all hallmarks of his practice, one that interrogates the nature of the subject and the space of photography to propagate overlapping narratives of both truth and fantasy.

On view in the gallery are more than 20 high-resolution  photographic works printed on a monumental scale that blur the lines between painting and photography. Rendered in archival pigments on cotton rag paper and available in small, limited editions, these imposing, exquisite prints include individual portraits, diptychs, and elaborate groupings of participants juxtaposed against images of the Pageant’s makeup templates – which are used to model the performers’ final appearance. Throughout the series each subject willingly yields their own subjectivity to the artifice of the image and the photographic qualities of light, hue and contrast that register the works with a distinct emotional poignancy.

Similar to Cindy Sherman’s dramatic self-portraits, Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s Heads or Richard Avedon’s candid In the American West series, Rolston resists the impulse to elevate the everyday, instead locating human qualities in subjects whose living presence is masked in layers of caked-on makeup, body paint and metallic powder. It is this uncanny valley between the individual and the icon where Rolston identifies the human need for recognition  through art in order to connect with the beyond, using photography to examine the boundary between reality and illusion. To quote Ernest Becker, “Man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level.” In Rolston’s lens, the impulse demarcating ephemerality and eternity could not be more present.



Matthew Rolston is an artist who works in photography and video; his practice centers on portraiture, most notably subjects drawn from celebrity culture. One of a handful of artists to emerge from Andy Warhol’s celebrity  focused Interview magazine, Rolston  is a well established  icon of Hollywood photography. Alongside such luminaries as Herb Ritts and Greg Gorman, Rolston was a member of an influential group of photographers (among them, Bruce Weber, Annie Leibovitz, and Steven Meisel) who came from the 1980s magazine scene. Rolston helped define the era’s take on celebrity image making, ‘gender bending,’ and much more.

Matthew Rolston resides in Beverly Hills, California. In 1977, Rolston was ‘discovered’ by Andy Warhol, who commissioned portraits for proto-celebrity magazine, Interview, soon followed by assignments for Rolling Stone, from founding editor Jann Wenner, and from Vanity Fair magazine, under editors Tina Brown and later, Graydon Carter. This sparked an extraordinary career, with photographs published in Interview, Vogue, W, Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair, The New York Times and over 100 covers of Rolling Stone. Rolston’s images are notable for their glamorous lighting and detail-rich sets.

Rolston’s work has been shown internationally at galleries and institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Camera Work Contemporary, Berlin; and Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles. His work is included in the collections of LACMA, Los Angeles and National Portrait Gallery, The Smithsonian Museum, Washington D.C. Art People: The Pageant Portraits is Rolston’s third major fine art project in the past decade. A retrospective publication of Rolston’s earliest entertainment portraits, entitled Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles, will be released in October 2017, published by teNeues.



Ralph Pucci International is a luxury furniture, lighting and mannequin company based in New York City. What began as a family business in the 1950s fabricating mannequins has grown to a gallery and showroom regarded as one of the best in the world, with outposts now in Miami and a brand new Los Angeles gallery that opened in March 2017. The mannequins include innovative and avant-garde collaborations with fashion designers, illustrators and supermodels including Ruben Toledo, Anna Sui, Christy Turlington, Maira Kalman and Rebecca Moses. The mannequins are featured in high-end department stores and boutiques worldwide including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom.

The furniture chapter began in 1989 because of a mannequin created by French interior designer Andrée Putman, who then urged Pucci to represent her furniture in the US. Today the designers represented by Ralph Pucci International include Patrick Naggar, Jens Risom, Vladimir Kagan, Hervé van der Straeten, Chris Lehrecke, India Mahdavi, Eric Schmitt, Jim Zivic, Michael Anastassiades, Elizabeth Garouste and many more. For Ralph Pucci, great design is an ongoing quest to celebrate the legends while also looking to the future and supporting emerging talent, which has led to an on-going partnership with students from Pratt Institute, where Pucci serves on the board.

In 2009, Ralph Pucci was the recipient of DDI’s Markopoulos Award, the highest distinction in the visual merchandising industry. In 2015, New York’s Museum of Art and Design presented an exhibition called “Ralph Pucci: The Art of the Mannequin” which is now at Northeastern University in Boston through October 2016. In 2016, the Museum of the City of New York presented Ralph Pucci with its City of Design Award which recognizes it says “those who have made New York the design capital of the world and inspire future generations of designers.” Pucci was the recipient of the Creative Innovation Award from Inner-City Arts in Los Angeles in 2013, and, in 2014, honored by the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club. Other accolades include “The Best in Furniture and Furnishings,” by Robb Report, “The Best Showroom” by Wallpaper, and a “Best of the Year in Interiors, Architecture, Fashion and Design” according to Interior Design. There are two books about the history of Pucci and the variety of exhibitions staged over the years: Show and Wall.

2017-10-19T13:18:04-08:00Oct 19, 2017|FOA Updates|