In 1960, Norman Norrell created one of his most daring and sensational innovations, the first culotte-skirted, wool flannel day suit. Soon thereafter, he debuted the culotted evening dress. Although it took years to gain widespread popularity, Norell responded to the fact that modern women were more mobile than ever and needed clothing to match their lifestyles.
Pale Pink Beaded Culottes Dress (1961), Chiffon with Glass Beads
Because he was convinced of the culotte’s value and insisted that it be made perfectly, Norell offered to give away his pattern to other Seventh Avenue clothing companies free of charge.
Photographed as part of the Exhibit, Norell: Dean of American Fashion, on View Through April 14th, 2018 at the Musuem at FIT in Manhattan.
The catalyst for Andy Warhol’s transformation from commercial to fine artist was a 1961 display window that he created for the Bonwit Teller Department Store at Fifth Avenue and 56th Street. The window displayed five of Warhol’s newest paintings as a backdrop to mannequins wearing Bonwit’s fashions. Representing Warhol’s first foray into what would become Pop Art, these paintings depicted commercial imagery from ads and comics, overlaid with gestural drips and blotches of Abstract Expressionism. The Bonwit window introduced Warhol’s characteristic practice of elevating pop culture into fine art that he continued to explore for the rest of his career.
Photographed as part of the Gay Gotham Exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York.
With their Photorealism, Robert Bechtle’s works capture the essence of modern, postwar American culture. The manicured lawns bathed in sunlight, the well-kept houses, the kids, the cars . . . all of suburbia’s manifestations are explored and exploited in his works. He elevates the mundane and commonplace to something more, an anonymous yet intimate view of ourselves. It is important to remember that his works are not photographs. They are masterfully painted pieces that are touched by the artist’s ideas, vision, hand, and point of view. A photograph captures what is there before us. Bechtle takes that moment and paints it as he sees it, not merely as the camera saw it. Like the Impressionists, he shows a fleeting glimpse of daily life, touched by transient light. Painting from photographs allows Bechtle to fully examine and capture that single moment in all its infinite detail. He then interprets the moment by selecting the details that he will paint. The overall flatness of many of his pieces creates a feeling of loneliness and emptiness amidst the picture-perfect settings.
In Bechtle’s oil painting ’61 Pontiac (1968-69) the family at the center of the image is the artist’s own. Standing beside his wife, with their two small children, they are the picture of familial complacency. They fully inhabit their own world, which is visible from where they stand. The house, the yard, the station wagon – this is their domain. Their pose amidst this seems almost uncomfortable, as if they want to move but are plagued with inertia. The field of view is devoid of anything other than the family and its possessions. The painting has a flatness accentuated by the fact that all fields of the painting are in focus, unlike with a photograph where depth of field creates some areas that are more crisp than others. It is as if there is no delineation or value given to any subject in the painting—the lawn is as much a star of this work as is the car or the blonde children.
Robert Bechtle plays on American desires and dreams, poking dead-pan fun at the ultimate banality and emptiness of achieving those dreams. The stark reality of his work is that it says as much about Americans’ feelings of alienation as it does about the ongoing quest for the American Dream.
Man Ray (1890 – 1976) worked in a wide variety of media, including photography, painting, and sculpture, often blurring the boundaries between these practices. Obstruction, an assemblage of 63 wooden coat hangers, is an example of the type of artwork Dada artist Marcel Duchamp called a Ready-Made, a term that suggests Man Ray’s appropriation and manipulation of pre-existing, common objects. The sculpture playfully mimics a chandelier, but, as the hangers seemingly divide and multiply, Obstruction quickly evolves into a dense tangle of overlapping forms. Cast shadows serve as distorted, immaterial extensions of its physical presence. Man Ray first created Obstruction in 1920, but the present work belongs to an addition of 15 reproductions that he created in 1961 for an important exhibition of kinetic art.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.