The Annenberg Space for Photography brings Beauty CULTure, warts and all, to Los Angeles

Understanding, and accepting, the ugly side of beauty is a balancing act in society.
But how do you define beauty in the first place?
Do you admire the beauty of others, or covet it? Has a genetic life bonus given you a different line to stand in through life?
Or is it a constant questioning of what is enough to do, to get the “beauty”.

The new exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography brings together over 170 print images, hundreds more in a slide show and a brand new 30 minute documentary on the subject of Beauty CULTure, in an effort to present the sides to those questions, in as fair a representation as you can get.

To start with, curator Kohle Yohannan, author and cultural historian, has assembled the work of over 100 fashion and fine art photographers, and has arranged their photographs throughout the space in sections, each one examining a different aspect of beauty:
Beauty, Inc, What Color is Beauty? Dreams on Paper: The Pin-up Girl, Reaction and Revolution, Adrogyny, The Marilyn Syndrome, The Model Industry, What Size is Beauty?, and of course, Hollywood Glamour.
Here is a short overview:

The images are laid out with those headings and a short explanatory plaque, which we are always fond of in these situations. Let the viewer know where you are going with an open ended chapter title.
Now, one of the corner pieces of the whole exhibit is a new documentary by acclaimed photographer/director Lauren Greenfield. With her solid interview skills, and the whole project shot on very scary crisp HD, you get an overview and insight to the entire show.
And the whole gamut of models are represented, from the child pageant contestant to Carmen Dell’Orefice, considered the first supermodel.
She had an excellent quote ” The kids of today don’t have the privilege of poverty” (approx) which led right into the exploration of anorexia within the modeling industry.
While we may not want the image of beauty to have extra pounds, the women who present that image, young women mainly, suffer the results of getting there.
This 30 minute film is Lauren Greenfield’s best to date, as it takes on another one of the 7 deadly sins, examines it, and clarifies a very deep rooted knowledge you may already assume you have, but the examination here lays it out with new layers peeled back, very cleanly. Unlike some of her other docs, such as “Thin” while a very powerful and real issue, this one, commissioned by the Annenberg, will be more accessable to the general public.
And accessable is not a bad thing here, as the entire exhibit asks the viewer to look at their own values, and react accordingly.
There is a small section on a few real life high school girls who look at what the expectations are on them, just being regular kids. Wish we saw more of them, although Ms. Greenfield has spent a good time examining their lives of kids in this demographic, with more to come.

We have a feeling that she is working her way through the 7 deadly sins, on a level of the young adult and how it shapes them.

There is even an interactive area which allows you to do a virtual makeover, a side by side before and after comparison, and then share it with your social network or private email.
We did it and it is buried away on some hard drive somewhere, never to be seen. Scary.

The suggestion here is to see the documentary first, THEN check out the rest of the show. There are some visually dense parts so be ready to stand and examine. Or sit at one of the 2 Surface touch screens and go through the exhibit at your own pace.

Photographers at the press event:

Paul Lange, Melvin Sokolsky, Susan Anderson, Lauren Greenfield, and Rasmus Morgenson

On opening night, one of the subject, Dita Von Teese, came to see herself on the wall of pin-ups:

In the coming weeks, the participating photographers and those in the beauty business will be giving free lectures at the Space, and we’ll post reminders on Facebook, Twitter and of course right here on the news feed in the right hand column.
They will all live on-line as well, if you can’t make it in person, posted on their site.

This show is a watershed moment for the Annenberg Space for Photography.
While the exhibits to now have examined the human condition in a national geographic way, not that that’s a bad thing, or has gotten to the core of competition with the Sports showing, Beauty CULTure will bring in the public, like no other show, we feel.
This is the cultural interpretation of beauty we are seeing every day.
The moral and personal costs for achieving a societal beauty are magnified here in one place.
Honestly, this is the kind of show that could easily live in LA or NYC with a common subject.

When you walk out of the building, you may agree with Jamie Lee Curtis and know that the alterations, don’t intrinsically cover the truth.
Or the septuagenarian who puts on her makeup at 6:00 AM every morning just in case the Fedex man comes to the door.
2 viewpoints with everything else in the middle, one thing we do know. You’ll want to see this show more than once.
Is it all new ground? Nope.
But it is a full compilation of the subject worthy of the space.

In the next while we’ll be posting video interview with some of the participants, with Lauren Greenfield first up in the series.

If you’re in LA, it’s a not to be missed show:
Free admission, $1.00 to park with validation.
They will be open on Memorial Day
Wed-Sun: 11am – 6pm
Century Park
2000 Avenue of the Stars, #10
Los Angeles, CA 90067
tel: 213.403.3000

NB: There was one interesting standout note – no men were involved in the model part of the show, only behind the camera. Except for one African American guy with gold body make-up. Maybe the next show.

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Upcoming Events

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Current Exhibitions

  • MOMA
  • LaToya Ruby Frazier-Monuments of Solidarity
  • May 12th-Sept 7th
  • 11 West 53rd St
  • , New York, NY 10019
  • Tel: 212.857.0000
  • Howard Greenberg Gallery
  • Conversations-Joel Meyerowitz
  • April 20th – June 7th
  • 41 East 57th Street, Suite 801
  • New York,NY 10022
  • Tel: 212-334-0100
  • Peter Fetterman Gallery
  • Michael Kenna: Japan -A Love Story
  • May 11th – July 20th
  • 2525 Michigan Avenue Gallery A1
  • Santa Monica, CA
  • 90404
  • Phone: 310.453.6463

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