On Human Rights & Censorship, World Cultures, Wanderlust and Criticism Without Borders

ON PHOTOGRAPHY | José Picayo snaps striking portraits for Sept. 16 exhibit

“Garima” (front) by Jose Picayo | Courtesy of Robin Rice Gallery

NEW YORK CITY |  Artist/photographer José Picayo, a mainstay at Robin Rice Gallery, returns to New York where he will launch his 9th solo exhibition as part of the 25th anniversary of this Chelsea blue-chip gallery.

Picayo’s exhibit will kick off with an opening reception Wednesday, September 16th, from 5:30 to 8:00pm. The exhibit will run through November 1st, 2015.

In his new body of work, José Picayo explores the mystery of human perception and interaction. This exhibit is comprised of haunting paired portraits, one photograph of the back of a model’s head and another of the front.

It’s human nature to see an incomplete image and mentally complete it, jumping to calculated assumptions based on previous experience. Picayo relates these photographs to his own experience walking in the streets of the city, imagining the front of the strangers he walks behind.

The paired photos are displayed across the room from one another, which establishes the true dichotomy of the exhibit. The textures, front versus back, are quite contrasting. This demonstrates the divide between the experiences of expectation and reality, by allowing the viewer to imagine the front side of the model and then confronting them with the honest reality.

“Garima” (back) by Jose Picayo

According to the gallery’s prepared statement, “Picayo’s latest exhibit toys with this concept of human expectation versus reality and poses many difficult questions. In working with models, he also delves into the definition of beauty and what is, overall, considered beautiful. The photos are both shot and positioned at eye level, giving the viewer the experience of seeing right into their eyes.”

To evoke a timeless feel, straying from the modern, Picayo uses 8×10 Polaroid film, which is especially rare and distinct in this era of photography. His technique emphasizes the importance of these specific captured moments. The subject is completely temporary, whereas it exists only for the duration of the photograph. The ephemerality of Picayo’s work enhances the strangeness of his societal observation. Moreover, the photos are printed larger than life-sized in order to make the viewer experience as authentic as his own.

GET TO KNOW José Picayo

Born in Havana, Cuba in 1959, José Picayo left his homeland in 1966 and moved to Puerto Rico, where he lived for 10 years. By 1975 José was in Kent, Ohio completing his high school studies. In 1981, he settled in New York City, where he received a BFA from Parsons School of Design in 1983.

José began his professional career in 1987, working for such magazines as Vanity (Italian), Sassy, Taxi, and Connoisseur. His work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, L.A. Style, New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Pottery Barn, William Sonoma, Lucky Brand, NY Magazine, Elle Decor, HG, and Martha Stewart Living as well as other U.S. and European publications.

In 1993, José returned to Cuba after 28 years to photograph in his hometown. During the 1990s he also taught photography at both Parsons School of Design and the International Center of Photography in New York City.

To view the images of the 25th year anniversary exhibition go to

“Bentley” by Jose Picayo

About Randy Gener is a U.S. media project devoted to global politics, public diplomacy, cultural issues, innovative art projects and international reporting in the public interest. Its founder, Randy Gener, is a New York–based editor, writer, critic, dramatist and installation artist. He has been an entertainment reporter for The New York Daily News, a features writer for The Star Ledger, an "Arts & Leisure" writer for the New York Times, a theater critic for Time Out New York, and a staff contributor at The Village Voice, where he was an arts critic from 1991 to 2004. He contributes to NPR (National Public Radio), Miami Herald and The Global Post. His 12 years as Senior Editor of American Theatre magazine earned him the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism, the Society of Professional Journalists’ Deadline Club Award for Best NYC Arts Reporting, and NLGJA Journalist of the Year.

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This entry was posted on September 13, 2023 by in Invested Spaces in Culture, Museums and tagged , , .


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