Matthew Rolston, Barye, Roger and Angelica (Angelica) (detail), 2016


What's it all about?

Artist, photographer, and video director Matthew Rolston (born 1955) was “discovered” by Andy Warhol while a student at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. His images of celebrities for Warhol’s Interview magazine, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and other publications won him acclaim as an heir to the tradition of Hollywood glamour photography. In the summer of 2021, Laguna Art Museum presents Rolston’s first institutional solo exhibition on the West Coast, Art People: The Pageant Portraits, curated by Dr. Malcolm Warner, LAM’s former executive director.

Art People: The Pageant Portraits is an exhibition of Rolston’s larger-than-life, strangely haunting photographs of participants in Laguna Beach’s Pageant of the Masters, known for its elaborate tableau vivant presentations. The exhibition connects two of the most beloved cultural institutions of Laguna Beach, a city founded as an arts colony in the early 20th century, while celebrating the broader history of art and photography that defines the cultural heritage of California. In Rolston’s brilliant, richly hued portraits, the artist offers not only a deeply poignant and personal account of the Pageant of the Masters and its participants, but also underscores the uncanny ways in which these works bring out fundamental aspirations of the human spirit and its underlying impulse towards art creation. Art People is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated catalogue with essays on various aspects of the project.

This exhibition is made possible with the generous support of Leone and Rich Adler and the FOA Foundation of Laguna Beach.


Behind the Scenes

This excerpt from a longer behind-the-scenes documentary, which is on view in the current exhibition, records Matthew Rolston’s personal journey through the creation of the series Art People: The Pageant Portraits. Filmed during the summer 2016 production of the Pageant of the Masters, it takes the viewer into the world of the Pageant, revealing Rolston’s process, as cast members, wardrobe volunteers, and makeup artists prepare for the unveiling of their work onstage.

Rolston and his team worked over a period of several weeks from a makeshift studio set up backstage, capturing individual portraits of fully costumed and made-up members of the Pageant’s volunteer cast during final dress rehearsals, at intermissions, and after the conclusion of each evening’s show.


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