Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Trendhunters, fashionistas, and bona fide designers are desperate for new source material to mine, as the old standards - Steve McQueen, James Dean, Marylin - are becoming a bit predictable. How many times can we see the ultra-cool visage of Steve giving his famous 'two fingers' salute at LeMans before we yawn and pass right by...we've seen it before, attached to the previous product to license his face.
When a genuine original is spotted, published in an obscure (preferably out-of-print) monograph, and a rumored exhibition years ago which nobody really saw (barring those who claim to have seen it, like the half-million attendees at the Sex Pistol's last concert in San Francisco), frissons of excitement run through the design world. The hungry maw of Capital sends its advance men, the savvy super-expert buyers and trend forecasters for Ralph Lauren and Chanel, true curators of future style, to analyze and grab the essence of what is different about this new find. Preferably, a new-found gold mine is just different enough to bump the existing product line into a new and irresistible direction, forcing the hands of a million consumers to lay their Amex on the table, trumped by a well-played hand of fashion poker.
Karlheinz Weinberger, the late-celebrated Swiss photographer (see my previous article here), is back on the scene this month, with TWO exhibitions in New York, plus the release of a Rizzoli monograph, 'Rebel Youth', with an introduction by John Waters ("Karlheinz Weinberger was from Switzerland?!? You gotta be kidding me."). It appears we will no longer have to spend $1000 on ebay for our Weinberger books...
The New York Times ran a story today on the imminent flood of Karlheinz-mania, which includes an exhibition at the Swiss Institute (495 Broadway), 'Intimate Stranger', opening today (Feb 9, 2011), which includes a selection of the actual jackets and pants created by the young gang members in Weinberger's photographs. And let us remember that what makes Karlheinz Weinberger distinctive and worthy of image-poaching is not his photographic technique - charmingly crude in-home 'studio' setups of his young friends - but the very subjects of his best-known work, the 'Halbstark' (half-strength) kids who worshiped Elvis and James Dean from a long, long distance, and grew their own feral-fashion island in the midst of placid Switzerland. Thus, we celebrate the photographic portal through which we see these long-ago youngsters, not the actual creators of this amazing style, the original fanboys and girls, and to my knowledge none of them have come forward to claim their Vivienne Westwood moment as the true originator of an amazing 'look'.
The second exhibit at Anna Kustera Gallery (520 W. 21st - opening Feb 11th) features posthumously-printed color photographs, to be shown publicly for the first time. All this just in time for New York's 2011 Fashion Week; what a coincidence! Stay tuned for oversize belt buckles and horseshoes, but I doubt the zipper-replaced-by-bolts thing will appear anywhere but a John Galliano runway show... mark my words.