Friday, July 24, 2009

The Met: "The Pictures Generation" and "The Model as Muse"

So much for expectations. I had anticipated seeing The Pictures Generation at the Met for weeks and of course inexplicably put it off. I was determined not to wait until the very last minute again, so was able to go view the exhibit yesterday.

The problem was that I had assumed I knew what the exhibit was about. I imagined something similar to the format of the MoMA's Into the Sunset show which was a large spectrum of photography. But the name "The Pictures Generation" was much less literal than I had guessed so egg on my face.

The exhibit was composed of various media and many well known artists. I never get tired of viewing Cindy Sherman's work, and discovered some pieces by Barbara Kruger that I hadn't seen before. Robert Longo's striking images of men in business suits composited over blank backgrounds made me wonder if they were a source of inspiration for the Mad Men opening visuals.

There was lot to take in on just one viewing, which is characteristic of the Met. The show and the museum practically demand multiple visits.

A show that I unintentionally stumbled upon was The Model as Muse, an anthology of fashion photography.

It was interesting to see the progression of styles and evolution of trends throughout the eras. Though I admit to having trouble focusing on the exhibit while surrounded by a crowd. Maybe that's why I prefer to wait until a show is at the end of its run. An empty gallery is much more welcoming to me.

The most memorable moment was walking into one portion to find blacklit graffiti and Smells Like Teen Spirit blasting. It was the era of Generation X and grunge. Kate Moss was hailed as the unconventional beauty and thus the embodiment of the anti-establishment movement.

This irked me somewhat. When this was all happening, I recall the bemusement of everyone at how grunge was plagiarized by high fashion. How was anyone supposed to take it seriously? Elite fashion designers were mimicking the look of thrift store flannel and ripped jeans. That practice still exists today but on a somewhat more subtle level (ahem, Urban Outfitters). Seeing models strut down runways in grunge gear was a farce.

All my friends and I could do was shake our heads and laugh at how companies cluelessly tried to turn this alien trend into a commodity. The epitome had to be the Grunge Speak incident.

In retrospect, it was just another example of the revolution becoming the establishment. Nirvana upended Michael Jackson at the top of the charts and it signaled a changing of the guard. The dilemma of any underdog-turned-champion is that you lose that outsider persona and take on the mantle of the status quo.

Not sure how much I really got out of this exhibit but I think it's worth viewing. I've seen more intimate shows at the FIT galleries that I enjoyed more, but again the Met is all about grandeur of scale. Check it out, and prepare to be overwhelmed.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Shameless self-promotion

One blog just wasn't enough for this brain. Not sure yet what it all means for this blog. Maybe I'll get a real job soon and immediately ruin the purpose of the new blog. (Doubtful.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wrong is the new right

My instincts are all wrong. That's what I've learned these last few weeks.

Due to my newly limited financial income, I decided to go to a new, cheaper place for a haircut. It's always a fearful leap of faith for a glasses-wearer because you just have to put your trust in the stylist while you stare into your blurry reflection.

The end result was a way shorter haircut that I had anticipated or was comfortable with.

The thing is, I've been getting a lot more compliments on my new haircut than I'd ever gotten before. Now maybe my friends are just being deceptively nice.

Or maybe the decisions or instincts I've had about my hair have been wrong. It makes me wonder if I've been making bad decisions for other things in my life. Like George Costanza, what if every thing I've ever chosen was the opposite of what I should've done?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Bose Pacia: "After Color"

There is something striking about black and white photography. The lack of hue punctuates the separation from reality. It's a reminder that what is being viewed is a representation. Yet, it allows the viewer to observe qualities that might otherwise be lost, such as the contrast of the deep shadows and the bright lights. There's a level of abstraction that allows the artist to direct perception and emphasize certain details.

After Color is an exhibit at the Bose Pacia gallery which examines the use of monochromatic photography through different styles, subjects, and formats. Although a number of artists were commissioned for the exhibit, the number of work by each was kept minimal. Possibly due to the limitation of space, this nonetheless helped contribute to a tight, focused exhibit that tantalized viewers rather than overwhelm them.

Arthur Ou's oversized trio of photos was the most immediately impactful work. The Untitled (Test Screens) portrayed various beach settings which were obscured, almost violated, by large blotches and splatters which were apparently applied in darkroom. The effect was dramatic, reminding the viewer that what were observing is several layers removed from reality.

Michael Vahrenwald's photos of lightboxes punctuated the idea of light and dark, further emphasized in black and white. In what I'm not sure was deliberate or serendipity, the photos were framed in highly reflective glass, creating another layer of light play. With such dark material displayed, the glass allowed for a great amount of reflection of the viewer and the environment. At certain angles, the photographic subject would be obscured by the viewer's own reflection, in essence creating a black and white version of the viewer. Again, luck or genius... I'm not sure. I'm possibly reading into things too much.

Matthew Gamber's reproduction of scarred and weathered chalkboards seemed to make the biggest impression on viewers. On one level, the viewer is left to imagine the countless words, numbers, and drawings once recorded on the boards, only to be wiped away, sometimes leaving a permanent trace of their existence. One could also stare into the dark void of the images and conjure up anything at all. The black abyss was like an empty canvas for the viewer. The patches of scratches and smudges were the only guides, sometimes creating allusions to x-rays, black cloudy skies, mammography, or video static.

I thought the exhibit overall was impressive, limited in size but not scope. Which parallels the exploration of the absence of color: that restriction can also become a liberation, allowing for more interpretive freedom.

The exhibit is up from July 8 through August 21.