It has long been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it’s this proverb that serves as the premise for the latest undertaking at Edward Cella Art +Architecture. By gathering together works that explore the photographic extremes, Glam delivers a poignant and fascinating examination of the construction of femininity in art. The exhibit draws together offerings from a selection of photographers who are second to none, featuring a cast of icons that includes Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, Irving Penn, and Cindy Sherman. It also offers a look at vintage photographic processes and prints.
Given the evolution of an artistic medium that has always willingly embraced the latest technical breakthroughs, photography has long been a vehicle of transformation. So, for the photo purist, nothing captures the essence of an image quite like a print made around the same time as the negative. A good example of this is Lillian Bassman’s 1950 portrait of Mary Jane Russell. The print was no doubt at the forefront of the technical revolution when it first cropped up, but time has since imparted its own sense of rustic elegance to it.
Just as the imagery is conveyed through a myriad of printing techniques-including classic silver prints, the subtle beauty of platinum/palladium, hand-brushed emulsions, and the sublime tone and color of Type C-the works themselves draw from an equally wide subject range. From classical fashion images such as Bassman’s work for Harpers Bazaar to the awkward perception of Diane Arbus’s “Two Girls in Matching Bathing Suits,” Glam serves up just as many counterpoints to the perception of glamour as it does celebrations of it.
The breadth of this exhibition is pushed even further with Annie Leibovitz’s “Some Like It Hot.” In this large color image, the two stars of the film (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) reunite several decades later and are portrayed holding hands in his and hers underwear. Replete with makeup, Curtis’s confident stance is counteracted by Lemmon’s coy reluctance. Hardly an image one would expect to play a part in an exhibition about feminine glamour, the photo’s inherent beauty-like many of the works on display-quite obviously demanded the photographer’s thoughtful eye, and will playfully do the same to the casual observer.