Don And The DIA
(Richard Avedon Photography Exhibit and the Detroit Institute of Arts)
Last Sunday, Mum, Brother Gnat, and I headed to the Detroit Institute of Arts to check out the Richard Avedon (fashion!) Photography exhibit. Now, two things I absolutely dig are the DIA and Mr. Avedon. (Sometimes in that order, sometimes not.) I used to think that if I ever saw Richie’s work in person I’d prolly misty-eyed up…which I did. Post war women in the fashion field will do that to a Girl. Pretty heavy stuff.
Richie’s work is grainy enough to give me the perpetual goose bumpings, but giftedly gray in order to keep your eyes focused on the elegance of the print rather than the lack of coloured contrast. There is so much going on in Avedon’s prints you’d probably never discover and dissect all of it as his natural grays. You would, however, as a viewer, be ease into the image, lolled about for a bit, witness to the subtle contrasts of white melting into back, and finally poured in front of the next photograph of Paco Rabanne’s dress against Donyale Luna. I’d go on and get all Arty on you, but let’s just say this is some good sheeet.
I was crushin’ on Avedon when I was in High Skewl. My Grandfather introduced me to Richie’s image of the Bee Keeper and I was hooked. So much so, that I reciprocated by exposing Gramps to Avedon’s prints highlighting slaughterhouse workers. (I’ve never claimed anyone in my family to be anything less than our wonderful self-interpretive demonic gloriousnesses. Nah-nah-boo-boo!)
In college, one of my photographic thesis papers was based on the life of Richard Avedon. Having spent numerous weeks/smokey treats/six packs/hot chocolate runs studying the man, I can riddle you items a lot of fans don’t seem to know. For example, Richard Avedon actually got his start photographing patients at State Hospitals. Sure, he joined the cute little camera club at age 12 and worked for the Merchant Marines later on, but he hung with the hospital crew for years. I can also tell you that his younger Sister, Louise Avedon, was his original model and when she passed away, ironically in a mental hospital, she was reborn as the ‘original Avedon Girl’. Louise was the basis of every beautiful infringement her Brother hoped to create. And, when she died at 42, her beauty symbolized her own destruction as well as a piece of Richard’s.
For my research, back in Ohio, I had to order a haystack of books which all arrived on the same day (of course). Toting my 13 sources back to my dorm room proved tedious until I opened about the 10th one. Inside the jacket was Richard Avedon’s signature and date. I was floored that Ohio State University would let this preciousness travel out of their possession. I mean, this Artist is like the big ten Boy on…big ten game day…or something (I’m not so much into sports). At any rate, it was the only time I seriously almost defaced a book. To this hour, I sometimes wonder if I made the right decision. I like to think so, but I kinda don’t think so.
Through it all, the Detroit Institute of Arts is one of my best places to go see some Artz. I really dig it there and they went all out on Richie’s exhibit. It was as stark as his images. Nothing distracting over to the Special Exhibitions wing, dark lighting for especially contrast-y shots of models in Paris, books and Vogue rags cleverly pronounced in the centres of rooms. The entire effect was pretty glamourous and the photographs of shoes were almost more than this Girl could take.
In addition to his talents, Richard Avedon was a H.U.G.E. promoter of women and his fashion Photography really reflected this. I’ve noticed that he rarely (if ever) shoots women looking down onto them. He has an honest method of shooting directly into the eyes of his female subjects or looking/gazing/admiring up into their forms. It’s all so perfectly situated to reflect the cleverness and strength of the fabric the models are donning. I think it’s pretty much a perfect marriage between the fashion subjects and Art speak.
It was certainly a swell exhibition destination to Detroit, for sure. I love Richie, I love the DIA, I loved the two…two…two great things in one! It was all so preeetty. (Especially the images of the shoes…)