Albert Watson, Carre Otis on Chopper, Los Angeles, 1990

JANUARY 22 – FEBRUARY 19, 2022

One could posit that developing outside the parameters of traditional fashion has allowed the photographers in this exhibition radical freedom from normative ideas. In a world where the presentation of fashion pictures was predictable, there was little room, from the inside, for disruption. Traditional fashion images were idyllic but utterly unreal. Crossing boundaries can mean creating imbalances, acting on impulses, and pushing the media in new ways. Some of the pictures in this exhibition can seem threatening or jarring, but in a larger sense, life is unpredictable, and there is an energy and vitality in encountering the unexpected and being open to looking at photographs in a new way. Both spoken and visual languages evolve to meet the needs of those who want to communicate new thoughts in a changing world. In this spirit, we present “Fashion with an Edge.”

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Fashion With An Edge

When referencing the various forms of art, often things outside of what we consider the “norm” are more interesting and original than what we traditionally expect. For instance, fringe theatre can feel more alive than classic theatre, alt music, or indie music can seem fresher than contemporary hits, and newer, more daring artists can make work that engages us in a way that art that has been embraced by the masses does not. One could make a similar argument with respect to various sub-categories within the discipline of photography.

Holden Luntz Gallery has always had an interest in exhibiting the work of well-known photographers who shoot fashion-based work. Since these photographers work in the service of the fashion industry to help promote and sell goods, they have had to understand the psychology of what makes something desirable. Ideas of dream, fantasy, obsession, and beauty have been relevant factors in the creation of these works.

Since the advent of fashion magazines and media coverage of style going back to the 1930s, there have become standard notions of how fashion pictures are supposed to work. The ways an image can objectify beauty, indulge a particular privilege or elevated status, and create an escape from the everyday have been standard conceits in traditional fashion photographs. Steichen, Meyer, Beaton, PennHoyningen-Huene, and Horst have set the very high standards that makers of classic fashion images aspire to. They relied on classic sculpture, painting, and rules of composition, as well as the use of culturally elite personalities to create a sense of allure and elevation.

In almost every art form – or medium of expression – tastes change throughout time. Society has evolved at an ever more rapid pace in the last half-century. The way one moves through the world has also changed. It is only natural that artists with newer visions look to address a world that has developed beyond the prosperity of the post-War periods and the development of modernism – and post-modernism. If the images that fashion photographers create can be thought of as a language – languages adapt with time and use.

This exhibition showcases photographers committed to producing images dealing with fashion in unconventional ways. They have taken language and reshaped it to express their desires and fascinations. Photographers such as Helmut NewtonFrank HorvatJim LeeClive ArrowsmithWilliam KleinHarry BensonArthur ElgortAlbert Watson, and Melvin Sokolsky have become memorable because they broke the rules and broke out in creative directions that were their own. Rather than work at the center of fashion – they approached it from the edge to create images that stopped the viewer and brought them into an unknown world. They strived to produce images that were dynamic and untraditional. Importantly, none of these photographers had classic training in fashion.

With a legendary career, Harry Benson’s renowned photographs captured some of modern history’s most iconic moments while also recording the changing styles of different eras. Photographer Arthur Elgort found a way to break free from the traditions of the day. Setting his models away from the static and classically composed, he allowed them more space to move, sending them into motion. Frank Horvat was a documentary photographer – who embraced natural light, hand-held cameras, and the spontaneous. Helmut Newton became notorious for his edginess and nudes that empowered women – but also produced cutting-edge stories for French Vogue. Albert Watson learned photography after art school – as did William Klein – but never had an exclusive interest in fashion-based images – Watson has shot so many different campaigns and taken so many distinguished portraits that – when he shoots a fashion campaign, he approaches it from a broader vantage point. He has shot film and video as well. William Klein was an American trained painter who moved to Paris and started making mixed media collages and later on worked into the creative world of fashion. He purposely experimented with various lenses, film speeds, and has been a filmmaker as well. Clive Arrowsmith developed an interest in fashion that dovetailed his larger interest in making portraits of musicians and tastemakers. Jim Lee has designed over 300 high-level commercial campaigns, directed feature-length films, and found an edgy, offbeat way to compose, crop, and sequence pictures. They are not specific fashion pictures but were made to showcase the work of great designers. He was an early proponent of both soft-focus images and the use of an impressionist color palette. Since the early 1960s, with his ‘bubble’ and ‘flying’ pictures, Melvin Sokolsky set himself up to challenge the limitations of gravity and reality. He subverts our usual expectations, and we see the pictures as dream-like constructions where beauty becomes both elusive and untouchable. Again, experience and his keen imagination rather than classic apprentice work in fashion have been his teachers.

One could posit that developing outside the parameters of traditional fashion has allowed the photographers in this exhibition radical freedom from normative ideas. In a world where the presentation of fashion pictures was predictable, there was little room, from the inside, for disruption. Traditional fashion images were idyllic but utterly unreal. Crossing boundaries can mean creating imbalances, acting on impulses, and pushing the media in new ways. Some of the pictures in this exhibition can seem threatening or jarring, but in a larger sense, life is unpredictable, and there is an energy and vitality in encountering the unexpected and being open to looking at photographs in a new way. Both spoken and visual languages evolve to meet the needs of those who want to communicate new thoughts in a changing world. In this spirit, we present “Fashion with an Edge.”