Friday, June 22, 2012

Public Dress

Youth on Wall, Jarrow, Tyneside, UK
Photograph by Chris Kiillip, English, 1976
A new photography exhibition just opened at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and, today, I was among the first to check it out. 

About noon, I headed over to the Caroline Weiss Law Building, and with the help of a MFAH staffer, found the small exhibition on the wall of the Lower Brown Corridor. 

Entitled, Public Dress, the photos show how many 20th century photographers have relied on clothing to craft a social narrative. The photos highlight the relationship between photography and everyday dress.

The photos of Maripol and Andrew Burmeister, for example, feature casual scenes with high-fashion in mind. This results in a gritty, relaxed style — seen today in social media and fashion blogs.

Robert Frank, Dan Wiener and Geoff Winningham inspected the expressive qualities of their subjects’ choices of attire, even of those in uniform. 

Personal style can also be seen as an act of rebellion, such as the "contained aggression" of a pair of boots seen in another by Chris Killip. 

The photographs by Will van Overbeek, Janice Rubin and Carl Clark explore how people groom themselves for a special occasion. 

One photo - the rear view of two women, clad in shiny lame pants and watching the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo - was a personal favorite!

Public Dress is a selection of photographs from MFAH's collection. I found it interesting to see the names of the original owners of the photographs. Some were well-known locals who had either given or loaned the photos to the museum.

Hats off to Natalie Zelt, MFAH Curatorial Assistant, who organized this gem of an exhibition. It's a treasure, and I'm very glad I discovered it.

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