Dress Codes at ICP

Miyako Ishiuchi, mother's #49, 2002, Gelatin Silver Print

Today I visited the Third ICP Triennial, "Dress Codes," which is dedicated to the interaction between fashion and art. Culminating the ICP's year of fashion, the outstanding exhibition opens tomorrow and will be on view through January 17.

Some of my favorite artists were included in the exhibition, including Tanya Marcuse and Miyako Ishiuchi, whose moving photographs of her deceased mother's clothes and accroutments were originally included in the Venice Biennale's Japanese pavilion in 2005. Also included is the work of the Brooklyn-based video artist Kalup Linzy (whose humorous work was first shown at Taxter and Spengemann), and the Turkish New York–based artist Pinar Yolacan, as well as a number of artists, whose work I was not familiar with, such as the German-based artist Thorsten Brinkmann, whose extravagant self-fashioning is reminiscent of Leigh Bowery's alterations of the body.

Fashion Projects' contributor Tamsen Schwartzman was also in attendance. She has a long-lasting interest in photography and its relation to fashion, and has written an extensive review for the Museum at FIT, which she has kindly agreed to let us republish:

"Dress Codes opens tomorrow.The third ICP triennial of photography and video and the last exhibition installment in their Year of Fashion explores fashion as a celebration of individuality, personal identity, and self-expression, and as cultural, religious, social, and political statements. Previous exhibitions, if you missed them, included Avedon Fashion 1944–2000, Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, The Condé Nast Years 1923–1937, and This Is Not a Fashion Photograph: Selections from the ICP Collection.

Most survey exhibitions of art or photography are a mixed bag. And Dress Codes is no different. However, there is enough really engaging, thoughtful work to make this a necessary visit for the fashion and photography enthusiast.

Jacqueline Hassink BMW Car Girls, 2004 © Jacqueline Hassink Courtesy Amador Gallery, New York

In my opinion, they put some of the strongest work on the top level. There you'll find Jacqueline Hassink's video "BMW Car Girls" which explores how beautiful models are used at car shows to add human seduction to the man's buying experience. The models, and the way they are dressed, function as a branding device and transfer glamour and sex to the car. The video shows how the men shift their attention back and forth from the cars to the girls and back. A fascinating and captivating video.

Mickalene Thomas Portrait of Qusuquzah, 2008 © Mickalene Thomas Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York

Right next to "BMW Car Girls" are three photographs by Brooklyn artist Mickalene Thomas. Her staged photographs celebrate and critique archetypes of black womanhood. Powerful, enticing, sexy, and confrontational, I thought it was some of the best work in the show. The photographs reference the pop aesthetic of Blaxploitation films, Seydou Keïta’s lushly patterned portraits, and Matisse's odalisques. I couldn't help but think of the recent Yinka Shonibare exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum when looking at "Le Leçon d'amour" 2008 and how they share the persistence of the colonial viewpoint. The photos also brought to mind an article I read this morning about the upcoming Tate Modern exhibition Pop Life: Art in a Material World that will include the controversial work of Rob Pruitt and Jack Early.

Another highlight of the exhibition is Tanya Marcuse’s exquisite platinum prints from her "Undergarments and Armour" series. These corsets, breastplates, and bustles from museum costume collections (including ours!) reflect Tanya's historical awareness of how the body has been sculpted and modified through fashion. They also expose dualities of masculine/feminine, hard/soft, hidden/revealed, aggression/vulnerability.

Stan Douglas Hastings Park, 16 July 1955, 2008 © Stan Douglas Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner Gallery, New York

Sartorial signs are addressed in the works of Alice O'Malley, Stan Douglas, and Cindy Sherman. Alice O’Malley's portraits of downtown New York performance artists and musicians serve to address how clothing and makeup are used to articulate outsider identity. Stan Douglas' "Hastings Park, 16 July 1955" is a large-scale photograph depicting the working class at leisure at a Vancouver horse track in 1955. He utilizes extraordinary detailed period dress that contains subtle indicators of working-class status.

Plase vist the Museum at FIT to read the rest of the review

Films and Installations: Alternative Fashion Presentations at New York Fashion Week

Tim Hamilton and Collier Schorr, Rope, 2009

I always find ways of presenting fashion design other than a typical fashion show interesting—particularly as a number of shows in New York are often streamlined events due to the nature of the industry and, at present, recessionary pressures. (For instance, I just returned from a Maria Cornejo’s show which was visibly paired-down both in terms of colors and looks.)

Among the non-model heavy presentations was Tim Hamilton’s event, which showed two short films by the New York–based artist Collier Schorr (best known for his portraits of adolescents) of a male model climbing a rope in various stages of dress in Hamilton’s pieces. The British designer Gareth Pugh also presented a number of films which he completed in collaboration with the filmmakers Ruth Hogben and can be viewed on SHOWstudio. (Both Hamilton’s and Pugh’s films, however, served as prelude to their upcoming fashion shows in Paris.)

Slow and Steady Wins the Race celebrated fashion week with an installation which opened last night at Saatchi and Saatchi, where it will be on view through September 18. This incorporated works from a range of other designers and artists (Andrew Kuo, Miranda July) alongside Ping’s own. (Talking with some of the British guests at the show, it was interesting to reminisce,in the midst of an artsy and, one assumes, progressive crowd, how Saatchi and Saatchi came to prominence through an advertising campaign for Margaret Thatcher.)

Among other designers who have used the medium of film or installation to present their work during fashion week are Titania Inglis—who has just launched a sustainable fashion line—while later this week the London-based designer Temperley will also present her work via an installation.

Earlier in the year, at a panel on fashion and culture, the New York Times cultural critic Guy Trebay pointed out how one way to overcome the economic pressures for young and established designers alike might be via creative collaborations across disciplines—an approach which would seem to foster novel ways of presenting fashion. Yet not many designers in New York seem to have taken notice…


Weird Beauty: Fashion Photography Now

Tim Walker, "Magic World," Vogue Italia, January 2008.

The International Center of Photography just opened four exhibitions to inaugurate their “2009 Year of Fashion,” including the contemporary Weird Beauty: Fashion Photography Now. Surveying recent fashion photography, the show includes magazine spreads alongside actual photographic prints. As noted by New York Times art critic Roberta Smith in her review of the show, the majority of the magazines featured are either European or Japanese, with the lone American titles, W magazine and the New York Times. Smith’s candid admittance that she was unfamiliar with most of these foreign publications was striking: Considering the importance of some of the titles in fashion circles (i.e. Vogue Italia and Purple), it goes to show the strict divide between fashion and art in the States. Perhaps the fashion exhibitions at the IPC will contribute to narrowing this divide.

Weird Beauty’s inclusion of the actual magazine spreads makes for an interesting contextualization of the photographs and gives its due to stylists and make-up artists, yet one would have hoped for more of the actual prints to be included. After all, an avid reader of fashion magazines would have seen a good number of these photographs on the printed page, and the museum could provide a different perspective on the work through blown-up prints. In fact, the photographs whose prints were included alongside the spreads stole the show. Particularly interesting were works which originally had been published in Vogue Italia. A black and white photograph by Tim Walker looks diaphanous, as it explores the transparency of fabrics like organza and tulle. It also points to the notion of prostethically altered bodies via a round egg-shaped ruffle “dress” worn by one of the models and a fork-like device (reminiscent of a prosthesis) that partially holds up the other model in the frame.

Deborah Turbeville, "Charlotte Gainsbourg" Vogue Italia

Other photographs that stand out are a portrayal of Charlotte Gainsbourg by Deborah Turbeville—an established photographer with an enviably long career—also in Vogue Italia. The shot is reminiscent of a turn-of-the-century Chaplinesque heroine. Also of notice are Surrealist-inspired photographs by Sara Van Der Beek for W Magazine, as well as the lighly disturbing photograph by Richard Burbridge, a close-up on an eye doused in candy pink liquid, and aptly titled Pink Eye.

Richard Burbridge, Pink Eye, 2008.

Francesca Granata

Edward Steichen In High Fashion

Models Claire Coulter and Avis Newcomb wearing dresses by Lanvin and Chanel at 1200 Fifth Avenue, 1931.

Don’t miss the recently published book Edward Steichen In High Fashion: The Condé Nast Years, 1923-1937, which discusses and re-publishes Steichen’s fashion photography and celebrity portraits. The images—all from the Condé Nast archives—were originally published in Vanity Fair and Vogue, and illustrate Steichen’s contribution to the burgeoning field of fashion photography and celebrity portraiture. That these two fields did not sit in high regard within the fine arts and photography realms with which Steichen had been previously associated, made his choice controversial and, to some extent, unusual. However, as Tobia Bezzola—one of the book’s authors—explains, his previous work as a painter and a fine art photographer clearly informed his “commercial” work—particularly in his rendition of clothing, as well as his choice of poses for his subjects.

The lavishly illustrated book, published by W.W. Norton, developed as a result of research that curators William A. Ewing and Todd Brandow completed in the Condé Nast Archives for the exhibition “Edward Steichen: Lives in Photography.Steichen in High Fashion undoubtedly benefits from their extensive knowledge of the photographer’s work, which allowed them to fully contextualize this aspect of Steichen’s output within the rest of his career.

Spanning a period of 15 years, it is interesting to notice how the early prints from the 1920s--featuring theater actors alongside fashion models and silent film actors--are more painterly in their softer lights and greater gradation of grays in comparison to his later works, which feature a more stark contrast of black and whites and geometric shapes. (One of the book’s authors, Carol Squiers, describes this as Steichen’s “evolution from pictorialism to modernism.”)

Gary Cooper, 1930

Among the most iconic portraits included are those of actress Gloria Swanson and Pola Negri, and, later, Greta Garbo and Anna May Wong alongside those of dancers as Martha Graham, as well as Winston Churchill and Walt Disney.

An accompanying exhibition on Steichen’s photographic work is currently on view at the Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg through January 1st, 2009, and will be traveling to the International Center for Photography in New York on January 16, 2009. (For a full exhibition schedule, please visit the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography.)



Laurie Simmons, Woman/ Purple Dress/ Kitchen, 1978

While the Victor & Rolf exhibition opened at the Barbican in London, with a gigantic doll house containing doll-size replicas of Victor & Rolf's collections of the past fifteen years, in New York there is a much more "minute" doll-themed show by the artist Laurie Simmons.

The New York-based artist's early work, dating from the late 1970s, is on show at Caroline Nitsch's project room and will be on view until June 28. Simmons' black and white photographs stage female dolls in miniature houses and rooms. Some of the houses' façade are disassembled, while the rooms' furniture gets "dislocated" from their proper place. These altered female interiors combined with the off-kilter placement of the figures doubles the uncanny feeling conveyed by the dolls and relays a feeling of disrupted and alienated domesticity.

Laurie Simmons, Sink/ Ivy Wallpaper, 1976