Monday, November 17, 2008

Richard Avedon

We all perform. It’s what we do for each other all the time, deliberately or unintentionally. It’s a way of telling about ourselves in the hope of being recognized as what we’d like to be.
-Richard Avedon

I was pleasantly surprised by the Richard Avedon Performance opening at Pace last Thursday. It was a very rare exhibit for Chelsea, and perhaps a safe one in this economy. This is work that we want to look at, photos that make us smile. After all, Avedon is a fashion photographer... one of the best. This show wasn't announced a month ago when I called them for show info for my Chelsea guide, which causes me to wonder if this was a star-studded filler for a waning world of collectors. Like busting out The Nutcracker whenever the ballet hits rough roads. But that's simply this non-expert's outsider speculation...

Like I said, I was pleasantly surprised. The last show at Pace was a horrific display of Keith Tyson sculptures that looked like a sour attempt at awakening Mondrian's perfect little squares. (Bummer, because I usually love Tyson and i absolutely worship Mondrian.) Avedon was the opposite... zero guess, zero quease, zero quandary. It celebrated the celebrity and the art of high-gloss black and white portraiture. And everyone showed up for the occasion... the Beatles were there, as was Marilyn. Paul Simon and Carly and Dylan. Bridget Bardot and Charlie Chaplin (pictured) and Audrey Hepburn mid-kick.

The show was about the performer, about the act of performing. Avedon saw performance as an innate quality within all of us. Performing is human nature, its just that some channel it into careers and lifestyles and others work it into our daily interactions indeterminately. Simple, straight forward, refreshing.

Aaron, Daniel, and I slowly circumambulated the space, pointing and smiling, taking turns with our adoring exclamations. There wasn't much to argue at this show (we made up for it at Tony Shafrazi about ten minutes later) there was more to agree upon. The air was light and friendly and nostalgic-- everyone sipping champagne and floating along happily. Again... I have to wonder if this show is perhaps the safe direction to which galleries will turn during these tragic times? I desperately hope not, but for the time being, Avedon cleared my head and turned up the corners of my mouth, just as these performers intended.

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