Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Beauty Culture at the Annenberg Space for Photography

On the very rare occasion that I have some free time, I like to spend it delving further into the art world, and this past week I took the opportunity to visit the Annenberg Space for Photography to see the “Beauty CULTure” exhibit that they currently have on.

On display are the works of over 100 world renown beauty, fashion, and cultural fine arts photographers like Man Ray, Patrick Demarchelier, Terry Richardson, Guy Bourdin, Herb Ritts, my favorite David LaChapelle…. You get the idea. 

The intention behind the exhibit is to explore how beauty is truly defined in our culture, and how it has shifted and changed from the 20th to the 21st century.  Concepts like androdgeny, pageant beauty, the Marlyn Syndrome, and unconventional beauty are the themes the exhibit attempts to cover, though I’m not entirely convinced it was appropriately shown.

In one sense, the exhibit glorified the societies typical ideals of what “beauty” is, by lining the walls with familiar faces like Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss, Angelina Jolie, and Elizabeth Taylor.  There was a small section devoted to ethnic diversity around the world in beauty fashion, but the only models I saw featured in this were the Americanized standards of what “colored beauty” looks like, ie. Naomi Campbell and Iman.  I was definitely hoping to see photographs of ethnic women that more closely represented the beauty ideals of other world cultures, but instead was left with what I like to call the “safe and predictable.”

There was a pretty interesting 30 minute documentary film that played which delved more into the pressures of societal beauty and what is most often expected of models and women, namely extreme dieting, over tall, over thin, young, and conventionally safe.  I appreciated the commentary from some of the more “left of center” fashion artists, though overall when the likes of Anna Wintour and others spoke of celebrating the out of the box beauties, you could sense they’d never really be willing to part from the expected, unless of course it were some featured one-off article “celebrating” diverse appearance, drawing attention to the fact it was being showcased, rather than allowing it to blend in and just be.

All in all, I recommend if you’re in the area that you go check out the exhibit.  Say what you will on what they actually achieve in their message, the works of photographic art are truly stunning, and if you have any slight love for fashion, you’ll definitely love this remarkable collection of visual stimulation.  I know I did!

Exhibit runs through November 27, 2011

Posted by: Spankie Valentine

Photographs (top to bottom) by:  Dior (cosmetics), Lauren Greenfield (botox), Miles Aldridge (glitter lips), Lauren Greenfield (girls at weigh in)

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