An artist’s perspective — his grounding in one world or another or, better yet, several — explains a lot about his appeal. Often what we relate to in an artist are the implied perspectives conveyed through his medium. This dynamic is the secret ingredient in Raoul Olman’s latest photography — black and white portraits that bring soaring majesty and candor to workers, artists, teachers, techies, retirees, and other everyday folk. With an innate ability to make a romantic statement out of hard lives, Ollman obviously, though perhaps subconsciously, taps into an upbringing in New York’s East Village in the 60s and 70s to firmly socialist academics in an otherwise harsh material and political world.
With eyes wide open to details and the awful grace of god, yet with an honest and humble compassion, Ollman‘s latest series of portraits pull no punches and soften no hard lines. This is the Ollman I grew up with — cultured scallawag, world traveler, artist — sneaking into Bruce Lee flics and Marx Brothers movies in empty midtown cinemas, always a step ahead of the trends and forever challenging himself to soar where others wilt. A natural rebel with a soft side, just as we like them.
His work couldn’t be more timely. At a time when truth is pushing verily to be heard again, everyday people — the subjects of Ollman’s work — deserve the stark pedestal provided by the artist’s unique vision. Imagine a collaboration between Charles Bukowski and Joan Didion and you might begin to understand the wide ranging honesty and humility of an artist riding a spontaneous wave, with his subjects and their unadorned truth somehow shining out of an otherwise mundane world. If you haven’t caught his vision yet, now is the time — right before the rest of the world catches on and you have to wait in line. My man.
By David Kaplan
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