Identical twins reared apart, it is said, are even more alike than those reared together. This is unquestionably true for the Witkin twins, Joel-Peter the photographer, and Jerome Paul the painter. As brothers who grew up separately, largely unaware of the other’s artistic output, they have not shown their work side by side, until recently, exposing an uncannily powerful connection. Deep existential questions are tightly bound in the complex psychology and memory their art explores through their shared themes of trauma and healing.
As unforgettable as it is powerful, Identical: The Sublime Arts of Joel-Peter Witkin and Jerome Paul Witkin explores the psychologically creative bond between the two brothers. Identical reveals a dialogue between dark and light, good and evil, the sacred and the profane.
Jerome Paul imagines the personal angst of Van Gogh, or the horror of Nazi concentration camps during WWII, which he masterfully paints in excruciating detail on canvas. Joel-Peter, considered a master of tableaux vivants, physically stages subjects that might include hermaphrodite persons, flayed corpses from the dissection table, or bitingly satirical lambastings of political figures in their “created” hell, where his photographic actuality appears more like fiction. These largely symmetrical but distinctly powerful visions spring from both artists’ boundless imaginations, replete with apocalyptic visions of horror, trauma and ultimately healing. Visceral, compelling, and inspired by the Old Masters, the work of both artists holds representations of the raw and unflinching representations of the human body as points of departure for exploring themes of religion, sex and mortality, provoking an indelible emotional and psychological response from the viewer.
Joel-Peter Witkin first created a sensation with major exhibitions of his work at the Stedelijk Museum (1983) and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1985), depicting marginalized people such as dwarves, hermaphrodites, persons with unusual physical attributes and deformities, and other societal “outsiders.” Jerome Paul Witkin has been compared to painters such as Lucien Freud, Manet, Ingres and Goya, for his technical mastery and the psychological force of his figures. His paintings, often made on large-scale canvases, are among the great narrative works in contemporary art.
The exhibition spans four decades and includes early and recent works by both artists. Iconic photographs by Joel-Peter Witkin include “Olympia” (1974) and “Las Meninas” (1987).
Jerome Paul Witkin’s masterful large painting “The German Girl” (1997) and “Kill-Joy: To the Passions of Käthe Kollwitz” (1975-1976) will be among his important works shown in this exhibition, joined by early drawings of the mid-1980s, examining the emotional state of an artist’s torment, featuring Van Gogh as his famous subject.
VIEW Prospectus (PDF)
NUMBER OF WORKS
167 paintings, drawings, gelatin silver prints, mixed media
Approximately 500 linear feet (152.4 linear meters)
Jerome Witkin & Joel-Peter Witkin: Twin Visions
(Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, Los Angeles: 2015)
Witkin & Witkin: Joel-Peter Witkin & Jerome Witkin
(Trilce Ediciones, Escandon, Mexico: 2016)