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Bruce Weber Ads Up

Culture Watch
Kate Moss with a local landowner, Vietnam, 1996.

By Tracy Zwick

Believe it or not, master photographer Bruce Weber has never taken part in a fashion-centric exhibition. That’s about to change. Weber’s Pirelli calendars, Kate Moss pictures and Calvin Klein campaigns may have made him famous, ushering in his pervasive 40-year influence on the American visual vocabulary. But it’s the perpetually bandana-clad lensman’s adventurous spirit and unsurpassed eye for the extraordinary that have made him an icon. On September 18, Dallas Contemporary will open “Far From Home,” the first ever Weber retrospective, comprised of 250 works, “most of which have never before been seen,” according to the museum’s executive director Peter Doroshenko, who is curating this exhibition.

“That’s the exciting part!” he explains. “Bruce probably shoots 500 images every time he goes on location. The public sees 3 or 4 at best. His archive is deep and rich and we are really utilizing that. We are printing all new images for this exhibition.” And when Weber goes on location, he goes to “the most unique and exotic locations” in the world, “from Norway to Vietnam to Brazil,” says Doroshenko, to name just a few. “The show’s theme will be fashion; it’s sub-theme will be travel.”

Weber began the process of culling images for the show, then Doroshenko met with Weber’s studio team and looked over more photographs before Weber made final selections. “It’s Bruce’s vision,” says Doroshenko. “Bruce chose the images that stood out to him as the best of each shoot.” This appealed to Doroshenko. “In retrospect we can make better judgments, or with time we may have the luxury to think things through and we all become better editors. I think that’s the situation here, after all these years when Bruce goes back and looks at all these different locations and images.”

Many of the images, including some dating to the 1970s, evince hallmarks of Weber’s now long-established style: breezy naturalism, unplaced nostalgia, the elegance and counter-intuitive warmth of black and white. Most of the works at Dallas Contemporary will be in black and white, “with maybe some tinting,” says Doroshenko. “Only recently, in the last few years, has Bruce been working a lot with color, and those newer works are a bit colder and more in-your-face. Hyper-realism is what we’re seeing in the newer photographs. We could open up Vogue today and see what he’s doing for Louis Vuitton. That’s the wonderful thing about Bruce: He’s pushing the fashion photograph to an extreme.”

And fashion photography is nothing new to Doroshenko or Dallas Contemporary. “We don’t limit ourselves to painting and sculpture,” he says. “We’ve done a lot of fashion photography including a recent show with Mario Testino, and we have an exhibition of Helmut Lang sculpture on right now. We are interested in the gray areas and periphery of where contemporary art is. Bruce’s work is amazing photography, but not typical ‘art photography’ you’d see at the Whitney or LA’s MOCA.”

The exhibition will be on view for five months and will include a public talk with Weber on opening day, and a screening of Weber’s films. “Bruce is always making videos, and his short video vignettes will be part of the show,” Doroshenko notes.

Asked for one or two images that stood out to him after poring over thousands in Weber’s archive, Doroshenko sighed: “That’s like asking who my favorite artist is. There are so many.” When pressed, he cited a location shoot in Brazil—“the Rio project, some of which appeared at the 1987 Whitney Biennial” where Weber’s work was shown alongside that of Julian Schnabel, Ross Bleckner, Barbara Kruger and Jeff Koons. “These images are more extreme even than the Calvin Klein ads Bruce did,” showing muscular young men wearing nothing but snug underwear. “They’re so hot and sexy, you start sweating just looking at them.”

All photos copyright Bruce Weber


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