NEW YORK TIMES   by: Ken Johnson   June 23, 2006   
Celebrities are, by definition, bigger
than life, and that is how the commercial photographer Martin
Schoeller portrays them in his king-size, extraordinarily lucid
photographs. You would not call Mr. Schoeller's pictures flattering,
at least not conventionally so. He borrows from the photorealist
painter Chuck Close the close-up, mug-shot-like approach, which drains
faces of expressive animation and turns them into awesome landscapes
of bulges, folds, cracks, pits, craters and stubble. Unlike Mr. Close,
whose subjects are usually people he knows personally, Mr. Schoeller
portrays famous people like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Jack
Nicholson. (His pictures frequently appear in The New Yorker.) There
are some portraits of the nonfamous, including members of an African
tribe and a United States soldier who sustained facial injuries in
Iraq, but they are not irresistibly captivating the way the celebrity
pictures are. There is something magically gripping about how these
beings who exist in our collective imagination like pagan gods are so
vividly, physically embodied, stripped of the protective veneer of
publicity yet untainted by the salaciousness of the paparazzi shot.
You can't help thinking, "So that is what Mickey Rourke (or Donald H.
Rumsfeld or Cindy Sherman) really looks like." Yet despite the
remorselessly clinical scrutiny, they retain their superhuman auras,
which may say as much about us as it does about them. If you have ever
suspected the fabulous actor Christopher Walken (above) of being from
another planet, Mr. Schoeller's eerie portrait clinches it. (Hasted
Hunt, 529 West 20th Street, Chelsea,

212-627-0006; through Sept. 1.) KEN JOHNSON
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