“The Madonna of the Future”

Despite his recognition in the world of fine art, Richard Avedon will go down in history namely for his work in fashion photography.  His name alone connotates the glamour lacing labels like Dior, Channel and Givenchy.  At first, his career in fashion denied him entrance into the cultural sphere of fine art.  Yet, Richard Avedon’s solo exhibition in the Whitney Museum sent ripples throughout the art world, as it complicated the notion that there is a disparity between high and popular culture.  The prospect that the mainstream even had a place in the art world is a phenomenon that emerged in tandem to the age of post- modernity.

In the article, “Madonna of the Future,” it is argued that there is a predictable and almost generic property too much of Richard Avedon’s fashion photography.  Ironically, it was one of the first images that earned him recognition, “Dovima With Elephants, Cirque d’Hiver, Paris”.  This early work remains an unparalleled paradigm for his artistic endeavors.  This particular piece has an inexplicable element that renders a surreal affect similar to that of a dream.  There are only a few photographs within Avedon’s career that lend the impression that he transcends himself.

One could argue that his 1981 portrait of the beekeeper, Ronald Fischer, also embodies the same captivating quality.  Although this photograph was one of many in a series Avedon did, it is unlike the others.  Yet it is difficult to articulate why exactly this is, as all the formal elements of the image did not differ from those of the others.  In many ways, Avedon became a hostage to his signature work- the black and white portraits pressed up against a bleached white background. Aside from the aforementioned images, there is uniformity to Avedon’s eye that translates as generic.  In short, Richard Avedon was simultaneously shackled and celebrated for his stylistic approach towards the medium.


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