Had my second eldest nephew not been passing through LA, I might have missed the Herb Ritts: LA Style exhibit at the Getty Center. Until yesterday, I had barely been aware of the gay photographer’s work in fashion, familiar with his images largely from the postcards and coffee table books I saw at gay bookstores, including primarily his images of nude men.
And save for a handful, few impressed me. His photographs of the male body (at least the ones I had seen) tended to focus on the muscle. The men themselves lacked sensuality, seemed instead cold, intimidating, unapproachable, lacking tenderness, devoid of emotion.
Yesterday, I was blown away by his work, mostly his images of clothed female celebrities, but was also impressed by a handful of his male nudes, the vulnerable Stefano and the intense, Pete and Yuri, the first photograph showing a man appearing vulnerable, longing for human touch, the second, depicting two dancers positioned almost as if in a circle, the one supporting the other, perhaps providing the touch, the support, for which Stefano longed.
The most eye-catching of his images (to me at least) were those of unnamed dancers or models, their rounded and otherwise curved dresses almost flowing out of their still, almost linear forms. In Corp et Ames 2, a dancer seems fixed in time as her dress arcs in an almost-perfect semi-circle. Versace Veiled Dress showed a black cape of some sort emerging as wings from the form of a woman, her body silhouetted by her black form-fitting catsuit. And that contrasted against a white, desert landscape.
When I saw the street light banners advertising the show, I hadn’t thought about seeing it, but now that I’ve seen the show once, I very much want to see it again. Many of the images are simple breath-taking.
If you’re in LA, I encourage you to take the time to see this show.