Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Jak & Jil Blog

In art, blog, fashion, nyc, website, website wednesday on July 28, 2010 at 8:00 am

The Jak & Jil Blog, a standout in the blogosphere of couture photography, showcases bright, crisp, behind-the-scenes photos of the fashion world. Pretty young things dominate the shots, their skin clear and their eyes shaded. The best shots highlight oft-overlooked details: the buckle of a shoulder bag, the fall of a hemline, the arch of a foot. Ignore the all-uppercase paragraphs and lose yourself in this world of impossible beauty.

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Luxirare

In art, fashion, food, inspiration, photography, treasure trove, website, website wednesday on May 26, 2010 at 8:34 am

LUXIRARE

Luxirare bills itself as “a weekly webzine dedicated to clothing and cuisine.” This photographic gem is that and so much more.

Luxirare posts blogs infrequently, around once a week. Each post consists almost entirely of photos, and is dedicated to a topic within food or fashion: assembling a boot, say, or making egg nog. Don’t let the mundane titles fool you, though- this is egg nog like you’ve never seen it before. The photographer and blogger behind Luxirare, a young woman named Ji, uses hyper-close zoom lenses, simple compositions and crisp, bright shots to track the progress of each unlikely project.

The result is a creation story told through pictures, beginning with raw, disparate pieces and ending with some jaw-droppingly gorgeous thing, a journey that us peons at our desk jobs can only imagine completing. Ji’s skill and imagination as a sewer and a cook make her photographic results even more special. (When was the last time you saw someone make crayons out of Heath bars?)

Ji occasionally features herself in her fashion photos, a lithe, faceless form with long black hair twirling about a white studio. Generally, though, she is very careful to keep personal details, including any identifiable physical characteristics or personal details, away from the camera, adding to the mystery of the site.

Ji often puts her creations up for sale after she blogs about them, but her livelihood beyond the income Luxirare generates is unrevealed. Whatever her methods are for affording the expense and effort put into her blog, I hope they sustain her creative genius for a very long time.

Gingerbread Gallery

In art, candy, exhibit, holiday, museum, photo op, syracuse on December 30, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Every autumn, the Erie Canal Museum in downtown Syracuse holds a gingerbread house contest. All ages are invited to submit a confectionary creation, with winners chosen for each of four categories: Confectioners Competition, Youth, Family/Group, and Canal Themed. This year’s houses are very imaginative, drawing their inspiration from a construction crew, a backyard shed, a beaver dam, a Central New York aquaduct, and even the Wizard of Oz. Fondant icing is rampant, as are any number of types of yummy shingling. (Chocolate discs, anyone?) The exhibit closes on January 3, so make sure to pay a visit before these sweets are gone!

Avedon Fashion (1944-2000)

In art, exhibit, nyc, photography on September 16, 2009 at 9:01 am

Avedon Fashion, billed as “the most comprehensive exploration to date of (Richard) Avedon’s fashion photography during his long career at Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, The New Yorker, and beyond,” is logically presented and well-described. Low glass cases displaying original magazines and prints of fashion photography demarcate the various decades of Avedon’s work, and large wall plaques explain Avedon’s career and the world which shaped it. The International Center of Photography has devoted almost all of its space to the impressive exhibit, and is also showing a smaller set of fashion plates, which dovetail nicely with the main attraction. The space is clean and bright, save one inexplicable yet dramatic black room with a striking white backlighting the photos, and is spacious enough to accommodate all patrons.

Richard Avedon is at his best when he is in his own world, photographing beautiful women the way he wants to photograph them. His work with the willowy models of the post-war era up through the 1960s is exquisite. Too rich to grow old, too young to know better, the ethereal girls create dramatic lines and artistic curves with their clothes and with their bodies. Their eyes and smiles speak of the hope of tomorrow and the dawning 1950s. Fashion was beautiful then, and Avedon captures and cultivates that beauty extremely well.

Avedon’s later fashion photography is not bad, but it doesn’t thrill, either. Avedon came to maturity as a photographer at a time of renewal and grown in the US. America of the 1970s had changed, and its clothing had changed with it. When fashion stopped being beautiful and became scary or provocative, as we see today in everything from H&M ads to obscure exhibits at the Costume Institute at the Met, it passed Avedon by. His action shots are confusing and do not stand the test of time. His final series of photos from 2000, juxtaposing a model with a skeleton and discussing the heavily-laden symbolism therein, tries too hard for attention.

All is not lost. Avedon’s ability to reach into a seemingly simple shot (girl, dress) and extract passion, movement, and (most importantly) personality is the reason that his career did not remain confined to fashion. His later shots of famous figures and celebrities, not included in this exhibit, show them as they saw themselves and as we see them now; he strips the soul to show the beauty, or the ugliness, within. Similarly, Avedon’s later passion with photographing coal miners and cattle ranchers in the US Midwest shows humans simply, reaching into their history while showing nothing but their faces. Their origins are distinctly shown here in Avedon’s depiction of high fashion and the rebirth of America, when everyone was beautiful and everything was just beginning.

Avedon Fashion is displayed at the ICP until September 20.

Two Postsecret Shows

In art, exhibit, museum on June 7, 2009 at 10:09 pm

I first heard about Postsecret relatively soon after the blog was started in 2005. (For those of you who don’t know Postsecret yet: you know that famous ongoing art project where people send in secrets on postcards to that guy in Maryland who puts them up on his blog? Yeah, that one.)I read the new secrets, posted by Frank Warren, every Sunday. I have only had one bad experience with the site, when Frank posted graphic images without any warning and I was subsequently seriously messed up for about 48 hours. I would still recommend the site, although the noticeable shift over the years from deep, personal, specific revelations to more nebulous, universal, sometimes-self-pitying statements is unfortunate. Check it out if you have the time: http://www.postsecret.com.

Since Postsecret became a national phenomenon, Frank has turned some of the postcards into a traveling art exhibit, currently on tour through December of 2010. The current leg of the tour is showing at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, NY, my home town. A smaller, more focused exhibit is also showing in the Hillyer Art Space in Washington, D.C.

I attended both exhibits with large groups of friends, which is the way I recommend you visit the shows, too. Viewing the secrets with lots of friends allows you to share connections within your group’s many viewpoints and life experiences. It also takes some of the edge off the more intense postcards, which commonly deal with heavy topics (eating disorders, abortions, death.)

Postsecret exhibits are simplistic: postcards hung in painstaking order create a sharp contrast to white walls, or are encased in free-standing clear plastic walls, so both sides of the postcards can be seen. A few choice postcards are blown up to the size of giant posters and displayed with the rest.

The Everson exhibit is tailored to the exhibition space, utilizing glass cases and two large white rooms in which free-standing plastic forms stand. My favorite room showcases a shocking collage of postcards, coating an entire wall in a cascading, tattered mess. The spectacle is breathtaking. The Hillyer exhibit, on the other hand, has only two small rooms to work with, and the exhibition style is much more uniform: five or six postcards are mounted on horizontal S-shaped plastic strips and mounted in a line along the two rooms’ walls. While aesthetically simple, the design lacks the ease or comfort of the postcards mounted in rectangular batches in the Everson. The Hillyer does not feature any free-standing plastic walls for patrons to wander around, which is a shame.

The content of the two exhibits differ immensely. Secrets in the Everson run the emotional and topical gamut, from funny to profane, touching to saddening to inspiring. The Hillyer exhibit, conversely, is titled “Confessions on Life, Death & God,” which is also the title of the fifth Postsecret book, due out this year. All the secrets in the Hillyer exhibit focus on religion, which doesn’t create as many opportunities for unexpected connections with others. Several themes are prevalent in the postcards: “I’m an atheist but I think I’m going to hell” is surprisingly common, as are commentaries on why God does or does not exist, followed by his perceived feelings toward the postcard’s creator.

I enjoy Postsecret because almost every week, Frank posts one or most postcards which I could have written. The feeling of solidarity with a stranger, experiencing the same emotions as I am, is powerful. The Everson exhibit provided that feeling in spades, and intensified it because I was with the real postcards for the first time. The Hillyer exhibit, while well-intended, missed the mark: I couldn’t identify with the postcards’ messages, even the ones from reluctant atheists, and so the exhibit passed me by. I worry that the strict focus on religion will turn away other patrons, as well.

The Hillyer space tries to recreate the fantastic postcard collage that the Everson did so well, by providing blank 5×7 note cards and crayons for patrons to put up their own secrets. This is a mistake. Drawing out a postcard in the midst of a thronging crowd (and oh were we thronging) defeats the necessary anonymity of Postsecret. Furthermore, a good two thirds of patrons’ postcards feature the kind of humor usually associated with high school boys, destroying Postsecret’s safe, accepting atmosphere. This, however, brought home another important point: maybe sometimes, even on Postsecret, we just shouldn’t take ourselves so seriously.

Postsecret is on display in the Hillyer Art Space until June 26th and in the Everson Museum of Art until July 12th.