“Couture Shock”: Fashion Photography at Vered Gallery
That fashion design is often an art form evokes a certain truism, and we welcome couture exhibits on the East End (like one at Guild Hall several years ago featuring local, international designers). More recently, East Hampton’s Vered Gallery presented the photography of Steven Klein, where both fashion and imagery created the art works. Vered’s current show celebrates that mixture again with pictures by Raul Higuera.
This display comes at a good time, in the wake of designer Alexander McQueen’s potent exhibit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. What’s interesting is the similarity shared by McQueen, Klein and Higuera. McQueen’s pieces are described as “sensual and fragile,” some dresses complete with a train and/or long sleeves. One could also characterize the clothes photographed by Klein and Higuera as also sensual and fragile. Yet there is a matter of degree. For example, Klein’s pictures featuring Madonna are sexual, not sensual, with touches of sadomasochism and sex/violence. McQueen’s attire is much more subtle.
Higuera’s subjects lie somewhere in the middle. They are not exactly over the top, when it comes to sexual suggestions, but they are dramatic, nonetheless. And while setting is very important in Klein’s work, it also plays a salient part in Higuera’s images. Consider the Opera House in Bogata where models are shot wearing billowing ball gowns. (In fact, some gowns look like an open parachute.) We wonder how the photographer accomplished his effect and then realize perhaps people were holding the garments from underneath. Simply put, both interior and exterior settings are highly stylized, resembling a Hollywood set; this theatricality leads us to realize also that the images represent a site-specific installation.
There are other factors that distinguish Higuera’s vision, like the contradiction at work when models are juxtaposed with animals. For example, consider a female who is face-to-face with a peacock; another photograph features a model who has a hoof instead of a foot. Is Higuera making a comment about women’s animalistic nature or is there a suggestion of a sexual relationship? (We doubt these implications simply because they are too obvious, yet we still wonder why these images are there. Perhaps it is simply to shock the viewer, thus the title “Couture Shock.”)
Another photograph features a model with long green fingernails, evoking the image of a vampire. A more whimsical image of a girl standing by the sea recalls a mermaid. Is Higuera’s message becoming a little more distinct now: the dual nature of living creatures, manifesting both animal and human behavior?
Then again, some photographs without animal images are still a mystery when it comes to meaning. Consider a woman leaning against a wall, a tiny shadow in the background. We are reminded of an expressionistic noir movie or a graphic novel, styles that are far removed from the colorful, theatrical mode of Higuera’s Opera House series.
“Couture Shock” will be on view at the Vered Gallery, 68 Park Place, East Hampton, until June 20. Call 631-324-3303. [/expand]