Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography, 1911–2011
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, through Oct. 21
“The bastard stepchild of the fine art world” is finally getting the respect it has always deserved, said Vanessa Friedman in The New York Times. Fashion photography, which was treated as a lesser form or art even after connoisseurs abandoned the myth of “pure” creative genius, doesn’t often enjoy as sweeping a survey as can be seen this summer at the Getty. But the 160 images on display, freed from their association with disposable magazines, make their own argument that they belong. Many iconic photos get wall space, including a 1955 Richard Avedon picture that pairs circus elephants with the model Dovima and sold for a record-setting $1.1 million at auction. But the show is not just about the biggest splashes from a century of image-making. Consider a department store ad created by Anton Bruehl in 1932: His model, wearing a body stocking and covering her face with raised arms, resembles a Greek statue—except that she’s partially wrapped in ribbons of thread that evoke female bondage.
The decades fly by in a relentless hunt for the new, said Laura Jacobs in The Wall Street Journal. Prewar images, such as George Hoyningen-Huene’s 1930 portrait of a man and a woman in bathing suits, are classics “worthy of genuflection.” But in the 1950s, Guy Bourdin’s portrait of a hat model at a butcher’s stall suggests revolution was brewing. The next decade saw a mad flurry of experimentation. The overhead perspective used by Harper’s Bazaar staffer Hiro in 1963’s Black Evening Dress in Flight, New York, creates an indelible image. “Squint, and it’s a Franz Kline abstraction.” You almost wish that every photograph were accompanied by explanatory text. This is the kind of exhibition that “makes you want to know more, more, more.” ■