Eyes on Art

Cool weather brings even cooler art shows, where you can grab some face time with photographer Duane Michals’ celebrity portraits, see City Hall through the eyes of political cartoonist Rex Babin or walk toward the light in one of Bruce Nauman’s corridors. Here’s our guide to five see-worthy exhibits around the region this fall.

Duane Michal’s portrait of writer Joan Didion is currently on view at the Crocker Art Museum, along with over 100 others by the celebrated photographer.

Duane Michal’s portrait of writer Joan Didion is currently on view at the Crocker Art Museum, along with over 100 others by the celebrated photographer.

photo copyright 2018 Duane Michals, courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York

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Duane Michals: The Portraitist

Contrary to the old saying, Duane Michals doesn’t think a picture is worth a thousand words. To illustrate that point, the New York-based photographer often uses text—from song lyrics to original prose—to supplement his photos, like the way he scribbled “hotter than a pepper sprout” underneath his 1970s portrait of Johnny Cash.

That image, along with about 125 others, is featured in the traveling exhibit Duane Michals: The Portraitist, which runs through Jan. 6 at the Crocker Art Museum. The show is organized by category: For instance, photos of Andy Warhol and Johnny Cash can be found in the art and music sections, respectively, while a 1990s silhouette of writer (and Sacramento native) Joan Didion, who is peering through geometric cutouts, hangs in the literature portion.

Photographer Duane Michals' 1981 portrait of actor Jeremy Irons (Photo copyright 2018 Duane Michals, courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York)

The display also includes interactive elements. There is a listening station that plays songs by the musical acts represented in the collection and a selfie area set up with props like mirrors, which Michals—whose work has been published in magazines like Vogue, Esquire, Mademoiselle and Life—regularly incorporates into his photos, like in a 2016 portrait of actress Tilda Swinton, which was taken from behind with a mirror reflecting her face.

“He’s always experimenting, posing the sitter in different ways, using reflections and multiple exposures,” says show curator Kristina Perea Gilmore. “It’s fun to see familiar faces presented in more artistic ways.”

Michals himself will make an appearance at the Crocker on Oct. 7 for an onstage conversation with Carnegie Mellon photography professor Linda Benedict-Jones, who curated a 2016 version of this exhibition for New York’s DC Moore Gallery. She will talk with the 86-year-old lensman about the various approaches he takes to create his portraits and his current work in film and photography, like his series of three shorts that recently screened at DC Moore.

$12. Through Jan. 6. Tues.-Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thurs. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Crocker Art Museum. 216 O St. 916-808-7000. crockerart.org

Meryl Street captured by Duane Michals in 1975 (Photo copyright 2018 Duane Michals, courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York)