New York Photo Review
Volume 2 Issue 45 December 20 to January 3, 2012

Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Soho Photo Gallery
Central Booking Magazine

The Deja Vu Decade

Harper’s Bazaar: A Decade of Style
Caroline Winberg (Harper’s Bazaar, May 2005) by Ralph Gibson. Source: icp.org
Ralph Gibson, "Caroline Winberg (Harper’s Bazaar, May 2005)"

Spotlighting a decade (2001 to 2011) characterized by parody and pastiche, the new ICP Harper’s Bazaar show sums up the retro imagination of our time. Endlessly drawing on older ideas and images, filled with self-conscious imitations of pop culture iconography, this is a style that is a collage of everything that went before. In this is it not dissimilar to the situation found in the galleries, the high art neighborhood just around the corner also suffering from a dearth of truly new ideas and serious talents.

The re-introduction of illustration along with the kind of collage and line work Moholy-Nagy pioneered–oh, way back when it was new–the use of comic book-storyboard layouts and a generally déjà vu campiness come strongly into play. All of it pointing to the renewed emphasis on editorial concept with the photograph itself simply one element in a heavily art directed approach.

Man Ray’s Floating Lips (Harper’s Bazaar, February 2002) by Patrick Demarchelier. Source: icp.org
Patrick Demarchelier, "Man Ray’s Floating Lips (Harper’s Bazaar, February 2002)"

Nevertheless, there are plenty of striking images in this show, perhaps the most striking by Ralph Gibson, a photographer not generally known for his fashion work. Beautifully conceived and executed, his swimsuit shot has the strong forms and interesting vantage point he is famous for. Among the older photographers Hiro does himself credit with the kind of bold graphic concept that has always characterized his work, though his contemporary, William Klein, is represented by photos hardly worthy of his name. Among the younger photographers, Peter Lindbergh seems to have taken the lead. He does everything well though not so distinctively as to possess a signature style of his own. In that he mirrors his era, which also does not possess a signature style of its own. Any one of the covers exhibited (Sarah Jessica Parker running, Drew Barrymore gesturing, Kate Hudson smiling) is nice enough, though invariably reminiscent of something else one has seen. A series on Madonna shows her doing her perpetual hooker routine, while looking more and more like Faye Dunaway. Then there is Jennifer Anniston imitating Barbra Streisand (give me a break!) and Patrick Demarchelier duplicating Man Ray. And so it goes, one celebrated face imitating another, one not-so celebrated image mimicking another, very celebrated one.

Chronicling an era in which endless recycling alternates with a depression-fraught realism straight out of rehab (in fact they do a rehab layout inspired by Marc Jacob’s stint therein,) the show highlights a decade whose imaginative exhaustion is prettily apparent. For that reason alone it is interesting– if, that is, one is interested in fashion and the times.


Harper’s Bazaar: A Decade of Style
Curator: Vince Aletti

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Friday, September 9 to
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Hours: Tues - Sun, 10 to 6; Fri to 8
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The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
Central Booking Magazine
Soho Photo Gallery