We all know the popular stereotype of the artist: gaunt, disheveled, maybe missing an ear, and with a manic gleam in his hungry eyes.
But how do artists see themselves? “Likeness: Portraits of Artists by Other Artists,” a new show at the Institute of Contemporary Art, tackles that very question.
The collection displays 50-plus portraits in different media (text and film included). Unlike depictions of, say, royalty or celebrities, the artists interact with one another in these pieces — creating a dialog about what it means to be an artist. So, for example, we see Deborah Kass painting Cindy Sherman dressed as Liza Minelli, which is really an oblique tribute to Andy Warhol. (Try to keep up, kids.)
All of which inspires the question: Are portraits more about the subject or the artist? Ask Robert Mapplethorpe. His contribution is a photograph of abstract expressionist Louise Bourgeois holding a sculpture of (what else?) a schlong.
Looks like at least one artist is living up to his stereotype.
Institute of Contemporary Art, 955 Boylston Street, at Hereford Street, Back Bay (617-266-5152 or icaboston.org).