In general, I’m fairly lenient on appropriation. After all, no one works in a vacuum and it’s impossible to have a completely original idea anymore. But my tolerance dissipates when the act of drawing inspiration from a source becomes flat out plagiarism. The most recent example of this in the art world is the blatant stealing of Alec Soth’s photograph Peter’s Houseboat for the Winter’s Bone book cover. Apparently the publisher (Little Brown and Co.) asked Soth for the rights to the image, but he said no when they wanted to Photoshop in the girl. Unsatisfied, the publisher decided to knock off the image anyway. I feel for Soth who didn’t make a dime out of this, but mostly I'm embarrassed for Little Brown and Co. With just a little creativity, they could have staged a new image that captures the “spirit” of Soth’s photograph instead of recreating a barefaced rip off.
One of the Museum of Modern Art’s most recent acquisitions to their collection is not an actual object. It’s a symbol: @. At first I was as annoyed with the news as those who publicly described it as “intellectual garbage” and “pretentious nonsense.” But upon further thought, I actually commend MoMA for continuing their long history of being a farsighted institution that sees (or is it more accurate to say “invents”?) trends while the rest of the world is still hung up on more traditional ideas of art and design. It’s not as if the idea of collecting the intangible is really all that new. MoMA has been practicing this for decades. How is the acquisition of the @ symbol any different from a museum purchasing a Sol Lewitt wall drawing from the 1970s? With a Lewitt drawing, all a museum is essentially buying is a set of directions that a museum prep crew uses to materialize Lewitt’s vision. For a more recent example, how is this any different from purchasing an equally intangible performance art piece? In light of this digital age, maybe 21st century museums need to get over the idea of a collection actually consisting of objects.
AJ’s post about Alec Soth made me think of Joel Sternfeld’s work. In particular, it reminded me of the photograph above, Exhausted Renegade Elephant, Woodland, Washington, 1982, which I recently saw in the Wanderlust exhibition at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum (Click here for my take on that show in Review Magazine). The photograph is similar to Soth’s work in that it raises more questions than provides answers. How did the elephant get there? Who are the people surrounding it? Is the elephant on the verge of death? Or is he simply taking a break in the middle of the road? Am I supposed to smile at the absurdity of the situation? Or sympathize with the elephant’s plight? And what does it mean that Sternfeld took the photograph from this angle and distance?
What do you think?
What do you think?
Lately, I’ve been mourning the loss of a clothing line I can turn to when I’m in need of something new for my wardrobe. This is especially crucial living in a small town where online shopping is the only way to stay up to date. Knowing the size and fit of a designer’s line is important when you can’t try things on before you buy them. Over the past 10 years, my go-to designers have mainly included Yaya, Theory and Diane von Furstenberg, but I’m bored with all of them and am in need of a new line in that price range that I can count on. Enter Rachel Comey.
I like how she balances clean lines and simplicity with interesting cuts and details. While she uses a lot of classic silhouettes and vintage fabrics and patterns, she adds unexpected details that make it young, sexy and modern. After getting her BFA in sculpture from Vermont, Comey designed costumes and sets and worked as a design consultant at Theory. She launched her menswear label in 2001 and her womenswear line in 2003 after women began buying the men’s clothes in smaller sizes. She first received attention when David Bowie wore one of her shirts on Letterman and after designing the costumes for the band Gogol Bordello’s performance at the 2002 Whitney Biennial. Now her work is sold at Bloomingdales, Bergdorf and she has a cheaper line called Contributor, sold exclusively at Urban Outfitters. Check out the images above. Could she be your go-to designer or are you already loyal to someone else?