DFR: Daily Fashion Report

 by Arlu Gomez

Whitespace Assistants Show
The 1st annual 'Assistants Show' was held March 28 at the Whitespace Studios, 523 West 37th Street (call 212-652-8840 for more information). It was curated by a number of top photographers including Annie Lebowitz, Patrick McMullan, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Richard Avedon and Mary Ellen Mark. It gave sixty two up-and-coming minions a chance to show their own work. It included what you might expect: some bright stars, a few duds and a lot of innovation. One hopes that many of the artists included here will navigate their own careers in the beaux monde of fashion, for straightforward beauty is the predominant and unabashed theme in the exhibition. Other artists, for their less- (or perhaps more-) than-pretty agendas, are easy to imagine establishing careers in the art world or profiling charismatic celebrities for magazines. But, for all of the passion, technical savvy and talent evident in this show, one can't help but be reminded of the truth: there are a lot of good artists out there. To make it big is rare.
"Bounty Killer" photo by Tim Carter
"Bounty Killer" by Tim Carter
(click on image for full size)
One lesson a handful of these photographers could stand to learn is that a beautiful boy or girl does not a good photograph make. However, several others have the skills and vision necessary to transform a subject into something more interesting: a character transcending the requisite fashion realities of good skin and perfect bone structure. Tim Carter's Bounty Killer, for instance, is an eye-popping symphony of color. A handsome, dreadlocked black man is shown smoking a cigarette. The lighting is such that his ebony hair is somewhat blue, as is the smoke rising in front of his sultry face. The whites of his eyes and of his cigarette contrast a blood-red background—and his dark skin. Arlu Gomez, a native of the Philippines, shows an impeccable color photo of a long-haired, thin Asian beauty sitting in the foyer of a mansion (photo at top). Whether she's a visitor or an heiress isn't apparent, adding narrative tension. The image is framed off kilter, as if the person taking the picture perhaps tripped over his own feet, stunned. The woman's head is at the center of the photo. Her coltish legs and high-heeled shoes are reflected in a highly polished marble floor. The fashion world might also benefit from the abilities of Diana Bezanski, who shows a fuzzily focused, elegantly textural, mostly black image of a black woman in a pinstriped, dark suit and a shiny, silky blouse.
"Girls Jumping Rope" photo by Chae Kihn
"Tabitha" by Chae Kihn
(click on image for full size)
Other artists evidencing special talent for composition include Chae Kihn, who shows Tabitha, a black-and-white photograph of playground girls skipping rope. Swinging hair and outstretched arms compliment a simple, curvy white line of rope that cuts across the frame. Bjorn Iooss plays with cropping in his Triptych, which shows three grungy kids leaning against a plain brick wall in three different frames. Americana is evoked by two artists, Michael Nemeth, who shows portraits of rural, blue-eyed, corn-fed high-school football players, and Eric Vogel, who contributes an image of a chunky Hispanic kid that looks like it was made with a fisheye lens. The boy cocks his head to the side, grins gleefully and points his chubby finger at the viewer. Blue sky spreads out behind his head.
California Salt Mine Worker
"California Salt Mine Worker" by Susan Denise
(click on image for full size)
  Among the conceptual stars of the Assistants Show is Francis La Roche, who exploits the red-and-white of both raw meat and certain butchers' uniforms, making the actually disgusting appear weirdly, visually enticing. Kelley + Meyers show a hypercolor image of a silver airstream trailer on fire. A teenaged girl flees from it while two boys play with toy guns. A woman with high cheekbones and that-girl hair stands in the foreground, brandishing a two-pronged fork with two hot dogs skewered on it. Reni Papananias reminds one of art star Richard Billingham. Her photographs, like his, scrutinize overweight, poor rural family members with a stirring combination of affection and brutality. Finally, Susan Denise's documentary image of a fat man in a dirty T-shirt standing in front of the factory in which he works is a potent reminder that this universe of beauty, representation and re-presentation is not, for better or for worse, where most of the world lives. Even so, if the Assistants Show becomes the institution it intends to, one imagines it'll become among the ripest poaching grounds for editors and gallerists. Early adopters might even figure it out this year.
- Sara Valdez

Sarah Valdez is an associate editor at Artnews Magazine. She lives in New York City. Read her other recent reviews of the Extreme Beauty: The Body Transformed exhibition at the Costume Institute and the Guy Bourdin photo exhibition at the Pace/MacGill Gallery.


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