‘Fashion and Finance’ fuse at Pepperdine art show

An opening reception will take place Sept. 24.

By Michael Aushenker / Special to The Malibu Times

The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University is currently exhibiting “Inspired by Fashion and Finance: Selections from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation,” on view through Dec. 5.

In the show, which launched Saturday, some 60 artists tackle the crossover of commerce and couture, addressing everything from the international financial crisis to the media’s fixation on glamour and luxury.

Chronologically, this exhibition goes back to Andy Warhol, architect of the Sixties pop art scene who redrew the boundaries between fine art and consumer culture.

“Andy Warhol was one of the first artists to look closely at pop culture and to make fine art based on the public’s fascination with it (represented here with 10 images of Marilyn Monroe),” Michael Zakian, director of the Weisman Museum of Art, said. “He sets the tone for the artists that follow in that vein.”

Warhol remains an inspiration to many artists in this show, such as Italian new realist Michelangelo Pistoletto and Korean-American Joon-Sung Bae. Pistoletto is represented by a vintage image of a hippie hitchhiker in a counter-culture guise meshing politics with personal style, while Joon-Sung depicts herself wearing the dress of 17th-century European royalty juxtaposed against contemporary women shopping for bargains in downtown’s Fashion District.

In addition to Warhol, icons represented here include Keith Haring, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein and Larry Rivers.

Zakian noted four works by Lesley Dill, best known for ball gowns emphasizing the elaborate ways women shield themselves in a male-dominated culture.

“She’s in her early 50s now,” Zakian said. “In college, she was an English major and didn’t have much interest in art until after she graduated. She began making dresses with words on them.”

One of Dill’s pieces feature cutouts on the filigree patterns that, upon inspection, are words co-opted from a poem by the reclusive Emily Dickinson.

“The ball gown is something uncomfortable to wear, as it’s made out of metal,” Zakian said.

There is some overlapping iconography at work in “Fashion and Finance.” Dan Tague’s “The American Idol” (2008) features a crushed dollar bill that is compatible with the visual pun of Mark Wagner’s “Check” (2000), a dollar forming the shape of a check mark.

Also burning strongly in the eclectic show is the clear influence of comic books and video games. Victor Tsoi’s untitled 1988 acrylic-on-canvas has a colorful 8-bit energy, with its bright yellow, pink and orange he-men, who look as if they escaped from an Atari 2600 cartridge. Greg Miller’s 2005 oil “Spider-Man” depicts Marvel Comics’ flagship character in a recreation of a 1980s “Amazing Spider-Man” cover, replete with logo.

“Miller is an artist from L.A. who recycles a lot of images from pop culture,” Zakian said. “He addresses our society’s interest in the new and in nostalgia.”

Always cartoony is the irrepressible art of Red Grooms. The playful Nashville-born artist has two works at play here: the mixed-media “Mae West Visits New England” (1981) and the 1983 oil “The Blue Restaurant,” a funky Louisiana bar scene.

Another entry is Mitsuko Miwa’s 1985 mixed media “Hat,” commenting on a duality native to her society.

“She’s a Japanese artist who is very interested in pattern and decoration,” Zakian said. “That’s an actual hat that is hanging on a hat hook on the painting. The artist used a pattern that is decorative but also camouflage at the same time. She’s commenting on how, in contemporary society, clothing can be used to stand out, but to blend in, too.”

If “Fashion and Finance” communicates anything, Zakian said, it’s that “the recent economic downturn did have an effect on the art world and the fashion world. This exhibit shows how interrelated both worlds are. It was quite surprising to see how many works in our contemporary art collection really address these themes, either consciously or unconsciously.”

“Fashion and Finance,” curated by Billie Milam Weisman, is on view at Pepperdine University’s Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway. Free admission. Museum hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed on Mondays and Nov. 25 through 28.

An opening reception will take place Sept. 24, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The public is invited. More information can be obtained by calling 310.506.4851 or online at arts.pepperdine.edu.

The reception will correspond with the opening of the new season at Smothers Theater at 8 p.m., when The Monkees’ lead singer Davy Jones will perform. Tickets can be purchased by calling 310.506.4522.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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