Matthew Rolston’s “Talking Heads” exhibition makes some noise in Los Angeles

The opening reception early last month for the exhibition “Matthew Rolston: Talking Heads” was well received, drawing a crowd of collectors and celebrities (including Diane Keaton) alike. The show, at Diane Rosenstein Fine Art in Los Angeles, was also well received by the press.

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installation view 1

Installation view, courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art. Photo by Craig Kirk.

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“The photographer’s striking, monumentally scaled portraits of ventriloquist dummies do little to dispel the notion that these creepy-cool conduits possess some sort of human animus. In fact, Rolston’s loving images make a strong case that his subjects do indeed retain a measure of spirit and energy from the entertainers who once brought them to life,” noted critic Mayer Rus of Architectural Digest in his review of “Talking Heads.”

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“They reveal their subjects to be as individual and vulnerable as real people,” wrote critic Sharon Mizota in the Los Angeles Times.

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    Matthew Rolston, "Anonyma Boy," from the series "Talking Heads," pigment print, 60 x 60 inches (framed view). © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew Rolston, “Anonyma Boy,” from the series “Talking Heads,” pigment print, 60 x 60 inches (framed view). © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

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Artsy.net‘s review, “When Dolls Come to Life: Matthew Rolston Upholds a Mastery of Contemporary Portraiture,” praised Rolston for his expert lighting and the “exquisite” way he captured the essence of the vintage ventriloquist dummies that are the stars of his fine-art portrait series.

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Installation view, courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art. Photo by Craig Kirk.

Installation view, courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art. Photo by Craig Kirk.

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Art critic Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, host of Art TalkNPR affiliate KCRW‘s influential radio show, noted that Rolston, a celebrity photographer known for his portraits of everyone from Jack Nicholson to Beyoncé, was inspired to create the “Talking Heads” series because, “like Irving Penn and Richard Avedon before him, Rolston wanted a break from his usual way of working. Rolston approached [the dummies] like celebrities in their own right, making portraits while applying the same rigor in lighting and composition that he would use for a living, breathing person.”

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Matthew Rolston, "Irish Policeman," from the series "Talking Heads," pigment print, 60 x 60 inches (framed view). © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew Rolston, “Irish Policeman,” from the series “Talking Heads,” pigment print, 60 x 60 inches (framed view). © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

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Drohojowska-Philp continued, “In these greatly enlarged photographs, framed in white, every crack, every bit of flaking paint is magnified, yet the eyes of each figure appear animated, even alive. Instead of treating the dummies as objects in a still life, Rolston portrayed them as subjects, reanimating them by way of his sympathetic treatment.” (Listen to Drohojowska-Philp’s radio feature on Rolston here.)

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And Zocalo Public Square editor Becca MacLaren remarked in The Washington Post that Rolston’s portraits “convey amazing emotion,” adding that “the results are arresting…. While these faces are wooden and inanimate, they still seem eerily human.”

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Installation view, courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art. Photo by Craig Kirk.

Installation view, courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art. Photo by Craig Kirk.

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The “Talking Heads” exhibition comprises 29 images, including two triptychs that measure a substantial 5 x 15 feet. Rolston found Diane Rosenstein Fine Art well suited to host the exhibition because of its size: The exhibition space is more than 3,800 square feet and features 18-foot ceilings, allowing for an impressive amount of “white space” to the installation. “I think the volume is ideal, given the scale and intensity of the images themselves,” said Rolston.

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    Matthew Rolston, "Noisy Crachini," from the series "Talking Heads," pigment print, 60 x 60 inches (framed view). © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew Rolston, “Noisy Crachini,” from the series “Talking Heads,” pigment print, 60 x 60 inches (framed view). © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

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The prints are available in two sizes, 36 x 36 inches and 60 x 60 inches, and are being offered framed, in limited editions of eight, with three artist proofs each (for each of the two sizes). The frames are cast aluminum, not wood, due to the size and weight of the pieces. Framing was handled by venerable Venice, California–based framers Ota House, which is owned and managed by Jane Berman. Ota House’s clients include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Broad Foundation, and a host of high-end gallerists and private collectors.

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    Installation view, courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art. Photo by Craig Kirk.

Installation view, courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art. Photo by Craig Kirk.

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The prints were made by master printer Althea Edwards of Studio 5150, a fine-art printer located in Pasadena, California. Edwards’ fine-art photography clients include William Eggleston, Tierney Gearon, and Doug Aitken. As one would expect from a printer of Edwards’ stature, the quality of the “Talking Heads” prints is striking. Each image is printed on Canson rag paper and boasts a richness of color that, said Rolston, “comes from the pigments both laying upon and absorbed by the uncoated paper—it is the same material used by artists in the creation of watercolors. Many people who have viewed the prints have mistaken them for paintings.”

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    Matthew Rolston, "Carlos," from the series "Talking Heads," pigment print, 60 x 60 inches (framed view). © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

Matthew Rolston, “Carlos,” from the series “Talking Heads,” pigment print, 60 x 60 inches (framed view). © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art.

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“Matthew Rolston: Talking Heads” is the latest exhibition to create an impact on Hollywood’s Highland Avenue, which is fast becoming LA’s newest art corridor. In addition to Diane Rosenstein Fine Art, the area is home to other respected galleries such as the Matthew Marks Gallery, Regen Projects, the Hannah Hoffman Gallery, and the Gavlak Gallery.

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For more information about the exhibition, please visit the Diane Rosenstein Fine Art website. To purchase the monograph Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits, published by Pointed Leaf Press, please click here. To learn more about the project, watch the Talking Heads short film.

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