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Art & Mass Production

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    Art & Mass Production
    The use of art in the modern era has turned from the classical narrative of religions being the dominant focal point to media and mass production.  With this shift of venue, the artists who make up Pop art and realistic art have incorporated into their pieces the idea of mass produced art, or at least a reflection of this mass production and media centered concept that has been prevalent in Pop art and modern art.  The following paper will examine Pop art, and modern art in these four artists:  Andy Warhol, Richard Hamilton, Roy Lichtenstein and David LaChapelle.  The wave of Pop art could not have been made possible if it had not have been for Dadaists, and Pop art would not have continued its mass market reiteration of icons if it had not been for fashion photography, therefore, Dadaism, and fashion photography will also be given sections in this dissertation.

    Pop Art’s Purpose
    Pop art came at a time during the late 1950’s and for the most part it happened in America and England.  Pop Art has its roots in London, post World War II.  There were a group of artists as well as intellectuals, philosophers, and writers who were enthralled with the way American culture through mass media was engulfing British ways of life.  The point of Pop art was the rediscovery of the purpose of art, or rather the persuasion of art to not always adhere to what others thought of as beautifu.  Thus, Pop art ingrained in its definition a relationship between the artist and the audience since the artist’s intentions was to make art that perhaps allowed the viewer to see what they were taking for granted, and for the artists part in this art movement, Pop art allowed them to see beyond the typical art of color on a surface and to scratch or paint beneath that surface, to do more than mix colors for a color palette as Maurice Denise stated.  Thus Pop art make accolades in its consideration of the image or the focal point of the art wanting to be recognized.

         Pop art goes beyond the representational intrinsic nature of art and as Janson states, “…then modern movement, from Pollock to Manet, was based on a fallacy, no matter how impressive its achievements.  Painting, it seemed, had been on a kind of voluntary starvation diet for the past hundred years, feeding upon itself rather than on the world around us.  It was time to give in to the ‘image-hunger’ thus built up-a hunger from which the public at large had never suffered, since its demand for images was abundantly supplied by photography, advertising, magazine illustrations, and comic strips” (Janson 832).  Therefore, the products of this time period, the overly commercialized products such as icons, Campbell soup, and others became the target and muse of these artists.

         The taste for commercial art had begun.  The point of Pop art was to reiterate to the public through the use of commercial products their current state of frenzy over consumerism, mass market appeal, and thus the classical canon was changed from the ‘high-brow’ (Janson 832) art world into a more realistic atmosphere.  Although the above artists (Warhol, Hamilton, LaChapelle, and Lichtenstein) campaigned Pop art it was only through the Dadaists such as Marcel Duchamp, that this type of mass market art was made possible.

    Roots of Pop Art Through Dadaists:  Chagall’s Butterfly Effect
    The concepts of chance and luck in the creation of life passages is nil.  In order to create art, there may be included a small amount of luck or chance, but this is just as easily defined as a muse.  Artist’s find inspiration in a muse, be it human, nature, or otherwise, and this is definitely not luck, but perception.  Perception is the impetus to creation; there is nothing lucky, or involved in chance; an artist is not lucky that they chose blue over red, they analyzed the painting or work of art and decided logically and passionately about it, not giving actions to whims.  Even though Pollock worked in a form unconventional than most other artistic movements, his color combination was deliberate, not open for review in the realm of serendipitous behavior, but he made a choice, just as each artist makes a choice.

         Although Arp’s approach to art in the piece, Arrangement According to the Laws of Chance hinges upon the very idea of chance overruling a formula there still exists the idea of choice, whether consciously or unconsciously made.  Arp, however, states that in this collage, there exists no room for predicted placement but instead Arp threw the pieces on the canvas, without concern of form or placement.  Opposing this is Mondrian’s very meticulous approach to art.

         Mondrian presented the art world with a very precise style that was not given to whims of fancy or chance in the creation of his Compositions.  In his Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow this is especially true.  The painting is a genius equivocal to Escher’s tessellation; in that it incorporates math as well as color composition into a constructed, and controlled piece of art.  The geometric shapes are witness to this concept because in their creation the artist makes the decision to compose according to these shapes, and as such, must contribute more exact and proportionate lines to balance the canvas.

         The idea of balance was the polarization between Arp and Mondrian; one was fascinated with coincidence to create objects while the other was focused and controlled in their creation process in producing an exact shape.  However, both artists approached the creation of shape in the same manner.  Shape aids in defining space which creates an adequate composition.  In this composition of space, both artists are in concord; they both use shape to define space in order to come to a completed work of art.  It is surprising then that even on this basis, the work completed could be so different and contrary to the other, but such is the artist’s view, and control or lack of control over their own artwork.

         In Chagall’s, work I and the Village the difficulty of understanding modern art is best exemplified.  The overlapping shapes cause much visual stress for the audience and this stress leads to a misinterpretation of the composition as a whole.  Although the shapes are well defined, in the overlapping of each other is also found the overlapping of colors; the human eye has difficulty in translating mixed color as well as shape, this chaos causes an unstable reaction in the viewer which makes them in turn unable to comprehend to piece.  The painting is definitely an example of early surrealism, which is also a difficult concept for the average viewer to understand since the landscape is not a natural landscape but could involve a dreamscape or a psychological scape (both used by Chagall).  This piece in particular however best exemplifies the goals of the Dadaists in that it’s interpretation is left to the viewer and its over all message lies within the feelings the painting evokes in the viewer instead of having the painting stand for something in particular.  Thus, Chagall’s work had no meaning overall but was personal to each viewer.

    Andy Warhol
    Warhol was born in the late 1920’s in Forest City, Pennsylvania.  He went to school there until he decided to attend Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh receiving his BA in 1949.  Shortly thereafter, Warhol left for New York.  It was in New York that Warhol found jobs in advertising were he became the main illustrator for Miller’s Shoes.

    Warhol’s roots in advertising (i.e. Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Glamour) influenced his  artistic endeavors.  It is one of the most famous of Warhol’s pieces, the 32 cans of Campbell’s soup.  Through the repetition of such commercial materials, Warhol was forcing the viewer to see beyond what had become invisible due to the marketing world; he was making the viewer see what their obsession’s faces were like; Campbell’s soup was mmm-mmm good, but by being brutalized by the image, consumers were just automatically thinking that Campbell’s soup was what satisfied them.  It was Pop Art, familiar for its stance of reproducing in a different manner, commercial desires, and it was with artists such as Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns that the movement had an impact.

    It was in America’s own obsession with the image, and pop culture that Andy Warhol became the most enigmatic character in the modern art world.  Prior to his career as an artist Warhol was a commercial artist; it was in this line of training that Warhol became possessed with the ideas of the aesthetic found in common objects (i.e. soup cans, posters, images, etc.).  Although most of his found items were easily overlooked because of their banal and pedestrian nature, Warhol made the viewer see something more, or at least, his statement on modern art made the viewer see how mundane life was, and how void of potential those objects were truly.

         Warhol was also obsessed with death as is prevalent in his electric chairs and his detailed and horrific traffic accidents.  In the capturing of these images, however, Warhol further extrapolated from the image, from the emotion, that death itself was also banal because it had been reduced to absurdity by the mass media.  It is in the media that Warhol found his niche, his calling as an artist; in the media’s over popularization of objects and people, those objects and people ceased to be real in a sense and there were only icons or inanimate objects just for entertainment.  What Warhol did was to show the art world, through his famous repetitive art pieces, just how desensitized the media had made society.

         It is in his Gold Marilyn Monroe that the apex of these media mogul ideas come together.  The gold background of the piece is reminiscent of a Byzantine icon, and in the color scheme Warhol extols the tragic personality of Monroe.  The off-register color gives the viewer a sense of otherworldliness, or off kilter sensation similar to that of off-color magazines, and in turn, Warhol’s statement is that Monroe, the sex goddess, envied by men and women, is reduced to nothing more than an image, a commodity.  Through Warhol’s picture of her, Monroe is presented as impersonal, and similar to the thousands of Virgin paintings, Monroe too has been over-done.

    In the 1950’s and the 1960’s production skyrocketed, and Warhol’s work mirrored the production rate, and commercialism.  Taking up with the manufacturing going on during this time, Warhol referred to his art studio as ‘The Factory’, because of his high output, and because of the style of art with which he was producing.  It was in his studio that Warhol began his silk screens and his sculptures.

    The screen prints were a staple of Warhol’s artistic genius.  He did numerous screen prints of famous people including Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger, and of course Marilyn Monroe.  The silk screen allowed Warhol to continue with his experimental color combinations and images.  The images were expressionistic and considering that they were images of people and not mundane objects it is no wonder that this period in Warhol’s life is known as his ‘post-pop’ period.

    This period occurred after Warhol spent some time in a hospital after being shot and almost killed and he had time to ruminate on where he wanted to take his art.  Warhol turned a corner in his career and he decided that he wanted his art to take him into the film industry.  In the human form Warhol produced hundreds of silk screens of famous people, and in this expressionism he also considered how to attract the viewer to specific parts of art.

    With Warhol being in control of the camera, that is, the film camera, he was in complete control over where the viewer’s attention was turned.  This type of control was very appealing to Warhol and in one of his films he filmed for eight minutes the poet John Giorno sleeping.  The spirit with which this was filmed was one in which Warhol presented his own image, and his personal vision of that image; the sensation of film for Warhol was culminating.  It is in this time period that Andy Warhol was noted to have begun the phrase, everyone has fifteen minutes of fame.  Warhol himself was keen on lionized individuals because they themselves were presented as commodities, which was a strong keystone in his art.

    The expanse of Warhol in the art world was one of enduring repercussions.  The movement of pop art was almost solely defined by Warhol’s vision, and his adamant views of the world.  That is to say that from commercial artistry to modern art, Warhol presented the world with a unique idea, one that encapsulated a modern way in seeing icons, and a way in which viewers could be more fully directed toward what they were seeing.  The Campbell’s soup cans were a definition of commercial mentality; Warhol harnessed the invisible concepts of products, and produced through art, a remarkable and uncompromising mantra.  His mantra was involved with different interpretations of the world, the icon reiteration in Warhol’s art simply expressed what was already in society, the banality of canonization.

         The Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania has a permanent collection of the pop artist Andy Warhol on exhibit.  The gallery is dedicated to the multi-faceted artist’s representation of life with genre motifs in film, sculpture, painting, and prints.  One very innovative technique that the museum offers is Silver Clouds.  Although the exhibit of Warhol’s work as a whole was quite striking I was very taken with the Silver Clouds installation because of its innovation and its dimension of taking the viewer completely into the art instead of having the viewer simply stand in front of a painting and look.  The Silver Clouds installation allowed me to experience directly Warhol’s artistic genius as an innovator.

         To contrast this very drastic concept of art presented by Silver Clouds the museum also has Warhol’s early sketches, among them the pop art that made him immortal in a sense.  The image that is recurring in reference to Warhol is his Marilyn screens.  To contrast, both the Silver Clouds and the Marilyn screens were bizarre in their breaking away from the norms of other art concepts, and they are very different in their design.

         The Marilyn screens present an icon of the silver screen, and Warhol is trying to make an artistic and drastic statement with his reproduction and reiteration of Marilyn.  That statement is that when a person becomes too familiarized with an audience they cease to be themselves entirely but become the audience’s image of them.  Therefore, Warhol was presenting to his audience the image of an image of Marilyn.  This statement is prevalent in all of Warhol’s pop art pieces, especially his Campbell soup cans, and other screens of famous movie stars and singers.

         Although Silver Clouds interacts with the audience and challenges them to think about art in more than two or three dimensions, it is with the screens that I spent the most time being pensive.  The color that Warhol choose for his screen was vibrant yet lacking translucence so that the viewer, me, was forced into the painting instead of getting a glare from the painting that is common in other art exhibits and paintings.  The screens seemed to trap the audience to look at them, to really think about the image they are being presented with and to judge that image in a whole new thought process.  Art is representation yet so is acting and Warhol created a great conundrum between these ideas when he made his Marilyn screens.

         Although the entire exhibit had many contributions of Warhol’s film, and other artistic endeavors it was primarily on the Silver Clouds and the screens that I was involved.  Silver Clouds was definitely a piece that moved and allowed the audience to move with it and yet I kept thinking that Warhol’s point in making this installation was to challenge the predeceasing ideas of how to view art.  I was very taken with the notion of it being permissible to touch an artists work when so many times museum patrons are told to not touch, and in fact there are velvet ropes set around installations and statues for this purpose.

         To be able to interact with a piece of art was very thrilling and that is perhaps why Silver Clouds caught my interest.  Although the museum offered patrons the opportunity to gain a sense of the artist from his early work at Carnegie to his later more exploratory pieces such as his Camouflage, as well as his films (Fifteen Minutes, Factory Diaries), in order to fully appreciate Warhol’s innovative candor in art, his more exotic and exploratory works (Silver Clouds) kept me interested.

         Finally, the arresting item throughout the exhibit was the varied and pied self-portraits.  Ranging from Warhol’s early career to his later art works, like Rembrandt’s own fascination with self-portraiture, Warhol embellished in the same egoism, or perhaps the same keen awareness of the changing self.  As a whole, the museum presented a very well organized exhibit, as well as an engaging way to present Warhol; giving patrons an entire view of the artist’s work in every capacity.

    Richard Hamilton
    Richard Hamilton created the first work of Pop art.  Hamilton’s collage Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Home So Different, So Appealing? (1956) which holds an emphasis on ‘comic strips, cinema, commercial design, nudes, cheap décor, appliances, all tokens of modern materialistic culture’ (Janson 832).  Thus, with the flow of art coming in from America to England, and this consumerism reflected back at America from art, there was a certain special appeal to Americans in embracing Pop art.

         The consumerism in Hamilton’s piece can be seen in many different objects.  The most appealing object is the nude man holding a tootsie pop.  Thus, the viewer can see a classic nude body, reminiscent of the Discobolus in its nude form, contropassto balance, but with the added comment of the tootsie pop there is something remarkable different in the message of the painting.  The purpose of the classic artistic canon was beauty in the nude form, but this beauty in Hamilton’s piece is being enhanced through a tootsie pop, which centers the focal message of the painting on mass markets.

         The entire painting is dedicated to the Pop art message of the embrace of consumerism.  The Tootsie pop is not the only form of Pop art in the painting.  As will be discussed later in the paper, the nude female in the painting is also a message of consumerism.  This message is seen in Warhol’s Monroe silkscreen works as the icon was overpopularized so much the icon lost meaning from the actual woman’s identity, and as can be seen in David LaChapelle’s work in which women are objectified.  The point of the nude woman in Hamilton’s work is the same objectification as present in Warhol’s and LaChapelle’s work.  The woman holds her left breast which has a tassel hanging off of the nipple, and her hand to her head to either stop her hat from blowing off, or to feign a Victorian sensibility in that she is overwhelmed with emotion.  Either motion works for the message of Pop art, which is the mass media objectifies beauty but there is a certain embracing of this beauty that needs to happen in order for the viewer to understand what consumerism accomplishes, which is defeating the meaning behind the objects.

    Fashion Photograph as a Catalyst of Pop Art and the Mass Market
    Fashion photography is about portability and malleability.  A model can be incorporated into a fantastical environment for which only the word surreal can be used to define.  In modern day photography there is a myriad of photographers each striving for a new lens, a new way in which to portray a fantastic image.  In the history of fashion, nothing is so transcendental than photography.

    The image in fashion has been primarily focused on the model and how well the model sells the clothes; it is in the photograph that mutation over the decades has skyrocketed into a true art form.  Fashion photography does not succumb to the norms of portraiture that Daguerre[1] made famous but to focal points of beauty in landscape, cityscape and how well assembled the model appears in those scenes.

    In the composition of photography there are many elements which define the medium; line, color, focus, brightness, scenery, shadow, etc.  The evolution of fashion photography hinged upon the mass reproduction of images in magazines.  In Germany, in the early 20th century, fashion became fully popular and available to the populace through Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung and Münchner Illustrierte Presse[2].  It is in the magazine world that fashion photography began it’s popularity[3].  As soon as fashion hit a mainstream cord with the public, magazines sales soared and thus was born the beginning of the history of fashion photography.

         There was great demand for magazines; especially fashion.  Women and men would see what to wear, how to wear to it, what was in style and the modern world finally had the leisure to pursue the market of clothes as fashion.  With this demand installed in the public, it was up to the photographers of the early fashion industry to come up with new ways in which to depict the model, the clothes and entice women and men to dress according to what was portrayed in the photos.  This is where composition of the photo is required to ensure new and deliberate methods of fashion portrayal.  With the oncoming age of color introduced in photography in the 1930’s and 1940’s as the encyclopedia elaborates, “Nonetheless, color remained a sidelight in photography until the 1930s because it required considerable patience and expense on the part of both photographer and printer. The dominance of color in terms of reproduction and everyday picture-taking did not begin until 1935, when Kodak started to sell Kodachrome transparency film, and was completed by the introduction of color-print films and Ektachrome films in the 1940s”.

         With color photography, the realm of the fashion world drastically changed.  The limits of black and white and sepia toned magazine covers gave way to brilliant exhibits of color combinations, and a wide range of fabrics that women and men could now see, duplicate, or buy.  Fashion photography changed from depicting high-class society women to models in every day clothing.  Professional photographers were then counted on to resonant the possibility of how fashion should co-exist with society.

         With Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar photographers were hired full time to create, in the magazine, a gallery of fabric eye candy dressed on a model with a backdrop.  The most notable photographers at the time were pictorialists[4], Edward Steichen and Englishman Cecil Beaton.  The incorporation of art into photography made the photographs more believable as high fashion.  Steichen and Beaton glamorized the models with enhanced lighting effects, which lionized the models and made the magazine world believe that fashion through photography was otherworldly.  Among new techniques being used, the online encyclopedia states, “American Edward Steichen and Englishman Cecil Beaton, both one-time pictorialists. These photographers began to use elaborate lighting schemes to achieve the same sort of glamorizing effects being perfected by Clarence Bull as he photographed new starlets in Hollywood, California. Martin Munkacsi initiated a fresh look in fashion photography after Harper’s Bazaar hired him in 1934. He moved the models outdoors, where he photographed them as active, energetic modern women”.  So began the movement of high fashion.

    In the movement, the use of fashion as advertisement was key in developing a market for fashion photography.  It is through marketing advertising, that fashion photographers began to be highlighted, as the encyclopedia states, “The new approach to photography in the editorial content of magazines was matched by an increasingly sophisticated use of photography in advertisements. Steichen, while also working for Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines, became one of the highest-paid photographers of the 1930s through his work for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency”.  These photographers, as well as others, helped to make advertising an art form through use of portraying model’s hands in product placement, and altogether catering to ever-widening audience of magazine buyers.  Fashion photography changed through the utilization and realization that product sold only through its modeling and photographic depiction.

         Fashion photography is used to studio lighting, general props, and fabricated sets to produce photos for magazines.  It was by moving beyond the scope of the pre-fabricated to outdoor life that photography truly changed its face: This revolution in photography was accomplished by Louise Dahl-Wolfe:  she created environmental photography.  Photographs then became very versatile in their encompassing environment, as Art News states, “Considered one of the world’s leading fashion photographers from the 1930s to 1960, Dahl-Wolfe received universal acclaim for her fashion and portrait photography. She was one of the first photographers to move beyond the dominant fashion aesthetic of studio props and lighting to photograph naturally posed models outdoors and on location in far-flung places, from South America to Africa. Her depiction of the easy but exotic American style “captured the essence of the new American woman: spirited, sophisticated, and above all, independent,” said co-curator Nan Richardson”.

         Through this revolution, the photograph is now allowed to incorporate the natural world in the make-up of the photo, and thus is born on-site location photography.  This completely changed fashion – models were now being flown internationally to shoots, and photographers could now broaden the horizon of their compositions.  Landscape then became part of the photograph as well as the model and other props.

         It seems however, that in the course of fashion photography there seems to be a throwback to vintage photos.  In high fashion photo shoots stylish black and white photos are becoming more and more popular; the sleek lines of postive and negative space are the dynamic in the photo, as well as black and white outfits that allow for a slimmer and more direct silhouette.  There is a definite nostalgia that is coming forward in recent photography, as Silberman emphasises, “I’d already noticed that vintage photography had been very popular in the last couple of years” said Downes. “I’ve seen an increase of people collecting old, black-and-white photography. We thought we would try and grab some of that appeal, and I think fashion photography works very well with that…. And then there was the Jackie Kennedy exhibit. That show has been a hit, and it focuses on a lot of hats and dresses. These events inspired me to take a chance on publishing some fashion images.” In this way, fashion photography is more and more treated as an art form.

         One of the most famous of throwback photos is found on Vogue’s front cover of 1951 shot by Irving Penn.  The photo is done in a glamorous mix of blacks and whites with the model’s glance oblique to the direction of the lens.  The lines are sleek and elegant portraying not only the clothes on the model, and the model’s expression but also the positive and negative space between the image and the background.

    Roy Lichtenstein
    Roy Lichtenstein’s more famous contribution to Pop art is his work Drowning Girl.  Lichtenstein utilized comic strip type of technique in his paintings which afforded to a connection between his subjects and the superhero, sometimes trite, but powerful images being produced, manipulated and objectified in the comic book superhero world during the 1960’s.

         The point of using comic strips as a means to portray his art was to associate the viewer with the behind the scenes violence which was occurring within the story of the painting; such as in Drowning Girl the subject says, “I don’t care! I’d rather sink—than call Brad for help!” (Janson 833).  This states that the subject chooses death over asking a man (who has done her some kind of wrong outside of the frame of the painting).  Thus, Lichtenstein uses violence in order to propel a certain reaction from the viewer.  Thus, Pop art is used in this painting in order to satisfy the urgency of violence that was so prevalent in the consumer world of Post World War II.

    David LaChapelle
    In fashion photography there is also the bizarre edge that somewhat damages the overall protest that fashion photography is art; this can be found in in some of David LaChapelle’s imaging that mix fantasy with fashion. LaChapelle’s art is rather avant-guard, but his imaging do contrast greatly with the sleek lines in 1951’s Vogue.  His compositions are busy and don’t seem to focus so much on the clothes as the entire image and background, and the way in which the models are reacting to that background.  Though LaChapelle’s  is rather experimental, his photos also exhibit great fortitude in personal style.  His contribution to the future face of fashion photography will not be trumped with banter on whether or not his photos are fashion but on how his fashion is portrayed in his photos (Lerhman).

         There is of course the opposite of what the aformentioned photos are accomplishing, and the opposite is the lack of art in fashion photos.  So much depends on the composition of the piece, and sometimes in fashion photography the art is compromised for the model.  This should not be so, it should be that the entire photo resonates a complete objective of art and fashion twined together not a dismal portrayal of simply a model in clothes[5].  In other photos there may be too much composition and not enough focus to do justice to the fashion of the photo.  Sometimes photographers forget that they are to be shooting a fashion spread and not an enigmatic portrayal of life.

          David LaChapelle is a modernist artist who delves into the realms of pop culture for inspiration.  His work simultaneously incorporates famous singers/actors while also paying strict attention to modern day stresses and cultural investments such as plastic surgery, nudes in different poses, and the media as art.  While he also pokes fun at some issues, his vast array of artistic abilities is a commentary on modern life through media projections and images of the self.  Both alluring in capacity and garish at times in its rendering his photographs are world-renowned for their truth telling and gruesome honest replications as Design Boom states, “Lachapelle is one of photography’s brightest stars, bringing high intensity, larger than life images to the pages of magazines worldwide (as i-D, arena, the New York time magazine, rolling stones, vogue, the face, the london sunday times and vanity fair).”

          The landscape of LaChapelle’s photographs while incorporating computer graphics are also a homage to the fantastical (as Cindy Sherman gave her film stills and later her horrendous fairy tale renderings) as well as the every day living of people.  With the incorporation of celebrities in his photographs, Chapelle gives his viewing audience a look into a story, not just a shot in time, as is depicted with Shoes to Die For.  While the landscape may be fantastical, it can also be defined as psychological in context as some of the celebrities are given props or outfits in which to transform the entire photograph into the mind-set of Chapelle as Design Boom, “…initially distinguished by his campy fixation with white-trash culture, Lachapelle is also known for his groundbreaking use of computer manipulation and futuristic fashion shoots and for placing Hollywood celebrities– from madonna, uma thurman, elton john to drew barrymore to the X-files’ david duchovny — in wildly imaginative and often compromising erotically charged settings. Lachapelle’s monstrosities are that breed of gaunt, blemishless human built and enslaved by heavy makeup, lighting and the glorifying voodoo of photographic attention, e.g., models, transsexuals and … leonardo di caprio. It is a prophecy of even scurvier spiritual illness yet to come from our media-centric society, in the not-so-distant future.”

          Chapelle is delivering to the audience their own fixation on celebrity or on the fashion world as is seen with the woman in Shoes to Die For in which a model/woman dives into the water to retrieve her shoes, at least in some variations of the story of the photograph.  The media is saturated with images of high fashion, unaffordable homes and lifestyles and LaChapelle is emphasizing that to the maximum degree.  The depiction of celebrities is the play on the idea of voyeurism; the media is a camera lens and LaChapelle is using his camera to stare back.  LaChapelle creates an illusionary world that captures surrealism in every way.  His symbols of the celebrity are what make the photographs captivating however.  It is with celebrities, that the media world is best pictured, and the world’s obsession with Hollywood is seen on newsstands everyway in abundance. LaChapelle’s style and color composition mirror the magazines, but the pictures are completely different as Design Boom states, “David Lachapelle is a photographer who tends to create his own visionary world, rather than reproduce what’s visible in the world, a photography style that can be compared to no one. David Lachapelle has evolved his photography into an idiosyncratic and highly personal combination of reportage and surrealism.” (2001).

          Often times very sexual, Chapelle’s symbols are based almost entirely on the media frenzied world, as with Shoes to Die For.  His photographs of women in controversial is symbolic of how women are treated on magazine covers as Design Boom states of Lachapelle,

    In the last years he also created music videos: the station promo he directed for MTV, which recast a scene from the tragi-camp classic ‘whatever happened to baby jane with an aging courtney love and madonna; the ‘natural blues’ video for moby. Recipient of the 1997 international center of photography’s infinity award and the 1996 VH1 fashion award for photographer of the year, Lachapelle creates images that are cultural cues as well as advertising campaigns for such prestigious accounts as estee lauder, prescriptives, volvo, levis, diesel jeans.
    His first book ‘lachapelle land,’ was published by callaway editions / simon & shuster in november 1996.  In 1999 followed his second book ‘hotel lachapelle’.

     Lahapelle presents men as baseless sex objects.  His sense of the marketing eye on nudity is impeccable, and the rendering of both women and men as objects is extreme but intelligent because he places them among many other symbolic objects such as fruit (which already has an underlying connotation of sex), and the camera’s angle glorifies this position but the background and costumes give the viewer a sense of voyeurism that is the true symbol of each piece.  He gives the viewer the ordinary as well as the extraordinary and forces the audience to see how unusual the arcane figures of sex and nudity can become, especially juxtaposed with objects.

         In LaChapelle’s work Shoes to Die For the image itself is a bombardment of color, in blues and  pinks, and the vertical image of legs dominants the photo.  It is with a vibrant use of color and line that is so appealing about this photograph.  The shoes on the tips of the models feet are at such an angle that they echo the shape of the sharks fins, thus creating a theme in the photo.  Since the shoes are representational of the sharks fin it may be suggested by LaChapelle that the shoes to die for are in themselves the cause of the models death.  The title of the piece suggests an action of the model diving into the water to save her shoes, thus, the shoes were advocates of the sharks bringing the model to her death, as is seen in their shape, angle, and color, all of which are also found on the sharks’ fins.

         The photo at first glance is representation of a horror movie poster (Jaws comes to mind) in which the model’s blood is overcoming the clear blue of the water as the fin closest to her seems to be the shark that bit her.  Not only is the angle, or the position of the legs a visually attractive device used by LaChapelle but the angle of the sharks’ fins also bring the viewer’s attention to them, as they are not full frontal but shot at angles oblique to the view of the camera.  The stillness of the photo with so many angles is also an element which gives the viewer a sense of real danger in that the legs are not moving violently and the fins are not depicted as moving with much speed as could have been done by making a ripple trail behind the ‘triangles’; instead LaChapelle chose to represent the danger through the use of blood and angles, and disturb the audience by making it a slow death.

    Other Artists & Conclusion
    During this time in art history, female artists were beginning to gain notoriety.  One the main issues of modernistic art was feminism, and this is seen in Audrey Flack’s work Queen.  Flack used realism in her paintings in order to more appropriately and dramatically explore the viewpoint of feminism.  In the painting Queen she uses the most powerful image of a ruling woman on a chessboard (the chess piece is seen on the right left side of the painting), but the trick of the chess board is that the queen is used as a sacrificial piece to protect the king.  The queen of hearts is also in this painting which is used to represent passion for gambling in reference to Flack’s family.  Thus, the traditional perspective of the queen is re-examined in this piece.

         Other modernist or realist artists in the 1970’s include Don Eddy.  Don Eddy explores contemporary problems in his work New Shoes for H.  This work captures photorealism just as Flack’s work captured realism.  Eddy’s acrylic on canvas piece and his photograph share similar traits but the use of the acrylic allows the painting to ‘pop’ more than the photograph.  The realism in this painting shows shoes, bystanders, and buildings through layers of glass, those making the angles the focus of the work.  There is a certain sense of commercialism in this work as can be seen in much of the artwork done after the 1960’s.

         Another movement in the modern art period is that of modernist sculpture.  One famous sculpture in the postmodern period is Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This postmodernist sculpture utilizes minimalist techniques in order to convey a powerful message.  The names o the fallen soldiers in Vietnam during the war are etched in symmetrical harmony along the black granite that descends in a slight slope in the Mall in Washington D.C.  The simplicity of the structure is what is so enigmatically humbling about the sculpture, and the noticeable lack of commercialism during the postmodern art period is also astonishing.

         Another artist who delved into postmodern sculpture is Robert Smithson, most noted for his Spiral Jetty in Great Salt Lake Utah.  This was known as Earth Art and resembles an extension of the land.  This piece is slightly surreal in nature, as opposed to Lin’s sculpture, and it is a contradiction to the land because of its corkscrew shape.  The piece is unique in that nature is reclaiming itself through the destruction of the jetty. Thus, the message of Smithson’s art is slightly media centered in that he wishes to show a sort of naturalism in his art, and that nature will eventually reclaim everything.

         Each of these artists has had major influences on their respective art movements.   The media was a definite driving force in most of these works, as either a contributor to the art itself or the lack of media in the simple designs of the art.  Modern art is a wave of art that allows for shifting perspective, setting new boundaries, and breaking the classical artistic canon that beauty is only found in a nude woman’s proportioned body.


    Art News.  (Nov, 2000).   Fashion Photography Moves Beyond Studio.

    Avery, Jodi.  A Click of the Shutter and a Click of the Mouse.

    Boom Designs.  (2001).  David Lachapelle.  (Online).  Available:

    Dorfles, Gillo.  (March 1957).  Communication and Symbol in the Work of Art.  The  Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.  Vol. 15, No. 3.  pp.  289 297.

    Encyclopedia.  History of Photography.     phy.htl

    Lehrman, Karen.  The Decline of Fashion Photography.

    Silberman, Vanessa.  (Oct, 2001).  Fashion Photography Shoots for the Stars.

    Spike, J. T.  (December 2007).  Fifteen Minutes and Counting.  Art & Antiques.     Issue    30, Vol. 12.  pp 144.

    [1] This reference was found on Britannica’s website,
    [2] This roughly translates to: Berliner illustrated magazine newspaper and citizen of Munich illustrated magazine press.
    [3] Information pertaining to the roots of fashion in magazines was taken from an online encyclopedia:
    [4] Pictorialism was created in response to mainstream photography.  Pictorialist strived to make photography an art form, not a banal example of ordinary still-life; in their photography they created on the image of the photo lines resembling Seurat’s work, creating sfumato landscapes, penciling in lines on the photo, all to create illusion, and to make the photograph another medium by which art may be expressed.  (online encyclopedia).
    [5] For this statement please refer to page three of Lerhman’s argument on the decline of fashion.  The picture which is being made an example of in art not pairing properly with fashion is one that Michael Thompson did for Vogue in which the model is pitted against a white backdrop and as Lerhman states, the only thing that is being accomplished in the photo is complete sterility.

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