Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Richard Avedon

Roger Vivier Evening Slipper for Christian Dior, 1963

A little while ago TD and I popped up to midtown and saw the Richard Avedon exhibit at the International Center of Photography -- an evocative show that recalled for me an elegant time gone by.

Richard Avedon changed the shape of fashion history with photography that moved with great energy. Previously fashion photography was carefully posed, but he encouraged young models to be active. I once interviewed model Lauren Hutton for Architectural Digest over sandwiches in the East Village. She told me that when she arrived in New York from Florida, she was a fashion novice and really didn’t know what she was doing at fashion shoots. Avedon said to her, “Well, what did you do in Florida?” Hutton said, “I ran through the swamps and jumped off the trees,” and Avedon said. “So run and jump here.” And there you had it.

Veruscka, 1972

Avedon really captured an era in fashion history – the sixties and seventies and eighties when American fashion was coming to the fore. His energetic pictures expressed the free, easy spirit and clean, simple lines of American sportswear being created by Anne Klein, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. And of course he photographed most Vogue covers during editor-in-chief Grace Mirabella’s reign from 1971 to 1988. Avedon and lively, sexy American fashion were a perfect match for each other at the time.

Not surprisingly, it wasn’t all angels and light with Avedon, who died at age 81 in 2004. When I interviewed legendary fashion editor Polly Mellen who worked closely with Avedon over her long career, we talked in her second floor sitting room with verdant views of the garden and pool and hills of Connecticut beyond. She pointed to the bed and remarked, “This is where Dick Avedon said, ‘Now I know where I’m going to have my nervous breakdown!”

Chanel with Suzy Parker

But the pictures in the show, from 1944 to 2000, are beautiful. Moving from the forties to 2000, they document the evolution of his style as a photographer, from the posed pictures of the French couture in Paris in the fifties to the great energy and dynamism of the sixties.

Veruscka, 1963

I think all of the photographs in the show are black and white; I would like to have seen some of his color photography. Also, when I think of Avedon I think of Lauren Hutton and the doomed Margaux Hemingway galloping across pages, and I did not see that in this show. But, over all it is a poetic distillation of an era, quiet and elegant, and a welcome relief from the cacophony of modern life that awaits outside the door.

Afterwards, TD and I had a glass of wine and a little cheese plate at the bar at Gottino on Greenwich Avenue.

Chic spot – I recommend it. I bought my Schwinn bicycle on the sidewalk here last summer. If you order some cheese, get the gorgonzola mixed with marscopone or ricotta.

1 comment:

Easy and Elegant Life said...

A perfect afternoon. It's good to immerse yourself in that kind of elegance as often as possible!

Funny, whenever I think of Avedon, I inevitably picture Fred Astaire in "Funny Face."