For the followers of art and design May in New York is a busy month. There are art fairs, design fairs, the Met fashion exhibit, and a myriad of events. Before long, the entire thing starts resembling your social media feeds – colorful, bubbly, but ultimately quite tiring and unfulfilling. You long for a quiet corner of the world where your brain can get back into a contemplative mood. The new exhibit of Deborah Turbeville’s photography at Deborah Bell’s gallery on the Upper East Side is just the ticket. It is an intimate show of intimate photography in an intimate setting. By god, it is restful!
The new exhibit by the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Camp: Notes on Fashion, is fraught on many levels, starting with a paradoxical nature of its theme. On the surface (no pun intended) Camp is not hard to spot because it’s so image-oriented. In reality the playfulness and irony inherent to Camp makes it elusive and intuitive. Like any sensibility or a matter of taste, Camp requires from its audience organic growth and (self)education. You can’t really stuff all of these things into a museum exhibit that is aimed at the general public – and the job of the Met is to cater to the general public. It’s especially hard to do because Camp is a fairly niche sensibility – there is something subcultural and underground in it. Camp takes pleasure in being stuck into people’s faces without them getting it. Really, it’s kind of the point.
During this past fashion show season one of the most talked about collections was the runway debut of Bottega Veneta under its new creative director, Daniel Lee.
In the history of design Dieter Rams – age 86 – is already a deity. His famous Ten Principles of Design are the design world’s Ten Commandments. His precept “Less But Better” is or should be etched on every designer’s forehead. Actually, considering today’s concern for sustainability, they should be etched on every person’s forehead. Rams’s products for the German manufacturer Braun have inspired countless designers, including those of Bang & Olufsen, and of course, Apple. There is, of course, a documentary. And books. One of which, “Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams” originally published in 2015 by Gestalten, is now in reprint. The book serves a double duty as a catalog accompanying the eponymous museum exhibit that has been traveling the world since 2009, and is now on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Paris, France – Live, reporting from another mixed season, which is better than reporting from a bad one, and pretty good as far as things go in fashion these days.
Decades after his death, with only seven feature films under his belt, Andrey Tarkovsky remains the greatest film maker Russia has produced, under Soviet Union and thereafter, both in the collective critical film imagination, and probably in fact. His films were so multifaceted – from the stunning cinematography to the philosophical dialogue that always centered on the same question – what it means to be human – that to unpack their sheer elegiac sweep of his films requires a book.
The art world has its own trends and fashions that come and go. Artists and art movements get discovered and rediscovered, sometimes with a nudge from powerful art collectors who first stock up on the art and then make bank once they help popularize it.
Paolo Roversi is one of those photographers that tends to frustrate you not because he is bad, but because he is do damn good. Roversi has been responsible for some of the most iconic imagery from Comme des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto, and more than a few memorable portraits and fashion editorials. Along with Sarah Moon and Deborah Turbeville, he has managed to make fashion photography transporting, taking you to a place that’s quieter, more contemplative, more intimate. The frustration comes from the lack of avenues to experience his sensual, touching work. There are few books that capture his output, and there are few exhibits. In 2005, when I was just starting to write and I scarcely new his work I had a chance to review his Studio book, published by Steidl. I passed on it, and I still kick myself for it. You can now get it on Amazon, for $600.
The photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is inextricably woven into the fabric of the New-York-Before-It-Sucked (that is the ‘70s and the ‘80s) cultural mythology. He’s always been that for the art circle, and he’s become that for a wider circle after Just Kids, a Patti Smith’s memoir about their friendship wildly popular amongst those who weren’t there. For fashion people, Raf Simons most recently popularized the name by devoting an entire collection to Mapplethorpe’s work.
Unapologetically gay, unapologetically promiscuous, unapologetically bohemian, Mapplethorpe was indeed a fixture on the New York cultural circuit, hanging out at Max’s Kansas City, rooming with Patti Smith, circling the requisite Warhol circle, and so on – the stuff of legend to be sure.
This year the ever savvy Guggenheim is capitalizing on the legend by holding a year-long two-part exhibit on Mapplethorpe, called Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now. The show is timely, as the LGBTQ rights continues to be a hot-button topic that attracts millennials. Why not attract them to a museum to see the granddaddy of it all? Because Mapplethorpe remains supremely important when it comes to highlighting the gay scene in New York. And not only highlighting it, but sticking it in the face of America. Contrary to the title, I find nothing implicit in the tensions Mapplethorpe put on display with his work.
I have a nagging suspicion that a lot of people who say they love Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV don’t really.