Staley-Wise Gallery’s “Real and Surreal” exhibition celebrates Surrealism’s imaginative manipulations of reality and its witty explorations of gender, sex, and style. In her New York Times review of Horst P. Horst’s retrospective at Staley-Wise Gallery in 1996, Sarah Boxer notes that “Horst’s elegant fashion shots owe a considerable debt to Surrealism”, and this is evident in the photographer’s compositions of models’ disembodied appendages attired in gloves and hats of the era and the participants wearing Salvador Dali’s elaborate costumes for his “Dream of Venus” pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair. Philippe Halsman’s own long and productive friendship with Salvador Dali produced the extraordinary 1941 portrait of the surrealist icon posed next to his “skull” of painstakingly posed female nude figures.
There are few fashion moments more iconic than Melvin Sokolsky’s 1963 Harper’s Bazaar shoot of model Simone floating through an enchanted Paris in a plexi-glass bubble, or his portrait of model Donna Mitchell with her eyes and lips “streaked” as if in a dream. David Seidner’s 1980’s fashion images featuring fractured and multiple exposures remain poetic and eerie, while Fergus Greer’s portraits of performance artist Leigh Bowery exhibit the joyful abandon of traditional societal and sexual norms that Surrealism celebrates. The exhibit also includes work by Deborah Turbeville, Erwin Blumenfeld, Man Ray, and Sheila Metzner, among others.
26. Erwin Blumenfeld
Cubistic Purple Nude, New York, 1949