As Fashion Week plots its return to L.A. with renewed vigor and splashier spectacle, seeking to find the right balance of edge and breeziness that defines California glamour, it’s worth lingering over this elegant collection of classic sartorial photography. “The Fashion Show” is on view now through Oct. 20 at Peter Fetterman Gallery in Bergamot Station, bringing together a smashing array of vintage photography from the couture heyday decades of the last 80 years.
As any fashionista will tell you, couture is about much more than getting dressed. Fashion designers, stylists, models and photographers all have the power to not only express but actively create the social zeitgeist, the standards of beauty, and the pinnacles of sophistication and avant-garde styles. As a gallery dedicated to the fine art of photographic history, Peter Fetterman is especially partial to the powerful role of photographers in this equation. In fact, this exhibition is curated from the gallery’s permanent collection of holdings and features stunning vintage gelatin silver and platinum palladium prints, objects of arcane desire in their own right.
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Many artists have blurred the boundaries between commercial and fine art concerns in their fashion photography practices, taking advantage not only of the larger budget, professional production equipment and entourages, and fashion-house garments but also of the publications’ own desires for cultural relevance and boundary-pushing. Some of the most interesting portraits of the last 100 years have been fashion-based, not to mention the starring roles of compelling architectural locations and landscapes in composing these pictures. All of this and more comes through in the gallery’s mix of classic, even iconic images with less disseminated but no less arresting images by other figures of the times.
Among the dozens of artists represented, of special note are Horst P. Horst in the 1930s and ’40s; to Norman Parkinson, Barbara Mullen and Lillian Bassman’s work in the 1950s; William Claxton in the 1960s; and right through to the moody, expressive work of Sarah Moon in the ’90s and 2000s and beyond. Models include not only professional poseurs but also magazine editors, actresses and It girls like Grace Coddington, Twiggy, Audrey Hepburn and Lisa Fonssagrives; and much of the work was first made for pillars like Paris Vogue.
Peter Fetterman Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave. #A1, Santa Monica; (310) 453-6463, peterfetterman.com; Wed.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m., through Oct. 20; free.