Dallas Contemporary Loves-Hates Fashion: Inez & Vinoodh and K8 Hardy

Almost alien, skinny, young white women hardly clothed with a look of wanting in their faces and perfectly messy hair—these are the muses of fashion photography. We’ve seen spread after glossy spread of them. Pretty Much Everything, on loan from the Gagosian to Dallas Contemporary, reveals all in a hundreds-plus exhibition of photographs by notorious fashion photographers Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin.

Paramount in this exhibition, however, were not the clothes; instead the focus was on the models’ faces and bodies—in (sick) obsession. And, although some commentary was certainly made in relation to the fashion industry, mostly the work was a survey of the duo’s career in the business, resulting predominately in a show of pretty pictures.

Inez and Vinoodh have a style of presenting glamour that sets them apart, which was apparent in this exhibition:  “post-modernist hyperrealism,” according to the exhibition pamphlet. I can agree with that classification, as it relates to fashion photography. However, I did not see the exhibition as “destroying stereotyped art world genres” (also from the pamphlet). Pretty Much Everything is steeped in, and relates to the progression of, the fashion industry above all else.

Because the breadth of work is too vast to discuss in detail each piece—and “feels a bit schizophrenic”, says Stephen Heyman of The New York Times—, I would like to point out those works that did breakout of traditional fashion photography modes and that also relate to important issues in contemporary art.

Thank You Thighmaster, as series of large-format color images, show the advertising industry’s standard of an ideal nude female body, but with a slightly large face that looks cartoon-like due to one-dimensional quality. The female form has no nipples and begins to look entirely plastic. The only sign of ‘life’ appears in the models hands and feet, where veins appear and are redder. Photographs in this series ask viewers to question body-image in media and our own artificial expectations by entirely stripping away the reality of being a woman and the truth of the female body.

Next to a photograph like Thank You Thighmaster might be a perfectly lit face shot of Kate Moss in all her glory, half-opened glazed eyes, painted lips and epically gorgeous, staring down her nose at you. At the same time Inez and Vinoodh try to pull back from the industry, they are again dependent on it and therefore stick mostly to beauty. Something I did not expect to come away with was the thought that models are actually more beautiful than most people. This reinforces the fashion machine, in the end.

K8 Hardy—a Fort Worth, Texas-born artist, now live-working in New York—is also in exhibition at Dallas Contemporary, September Issues. Hardy had a much smaller exhibition with about 12 cohesive works. Hardy’s work was free to critique fashion full-on. Using herself as muse, Hardy’s photographic large-format photographic works depict a female centered in frame with props and fashion-gone-wrong. As if the ‘model’ ransacked a Good Will and came out with something from every rack, a mismatched rag doll overly made-up with disco/rave color blocks overlapping the photo.

Hardy literally tore fashion apart by cutting up purses and carelessly rejoining, announcing—with the Frankenstein purse in hand—“K8 Hardy…Dallas.”

Inez and Vinoodh certainly take fashion seriously, while K8 Hardy pulled punches. The contrast in the two exhibitions made the case for fashion’s far-reaching influence in our society, no doubt–resulting in a ‘love to hate it’ relationship with fashion.

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