Ellen von Unwerth, Heidi, Kitzbühel, 2003, © Ellen von Unwerth, detail. courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery.

A Former Model's Sensuous Photos of Her Former Colleagues
Ellen von Unwerth worked as a fashion model for ten years before moving behind the camera. Quoted as saying "(Women) are not just there to be admired, they are there to be enjoyed," her erotically charged images of models, film and music stars are as well known as the subjects of the photographs themselves. Fräulein; features personal favourites of never previously seen images from the last 15 years.

Her sensual campaigns for Guess? in the early 1990s launched Von Unwerth's commercial career, and subsequently she has created campaigns for Baccardi, Victoria's Secret, Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger, H&M, Diesel, Chanel, Miu Miu, Blumarine as well as a series of publicity advertisements for HBO's Sex and the City. Von Unwerth has also ventured into directing short films for Azzedine Alaïa and Katherine Hamnett, music videos for artists such as Duran Duran and commercials for Baccardi and Clinique.

In addition to her career as fashion photographer, film-maker, and video director, her work has been collected in numerous books and two photo-novellas. Von Unwerth's first book, Snaps, was published in 1994 followed by Wicked (1998), and Couples (1999). Her photo-novella Revenge was published in 2003 accompanied by exhibitions in New York, Paris, Amsterdam, and Hamburg. Her photographs have been widely exhibited internationally including in Archaeology of Elegence (2001-2), and Fashioning Fiction exhibited at MoMA/Queens in 2004.

The exhibition at Michael Hoppen is a collaboration with TASCHEN which is publishing a major monograph of Ellen von Unwerth’s work, also entitled Fräulein. The text is written by Ingrid Sischy, the former editor in chief of Intervie magazine and currently fashion critic at the New Yorker and a contributing editor for Vanity Fair.

The exhibition and monograph celebrate female icons in provocative poses: Claudia Schiffer, Penelope Cruz, Natalie Portman, Kate Moss, Vanessa Paradis, Britney Spears, Eva Mendes,  Lindsay Lohan, Dita von Teese, Adriana Lima, Carla Bruni, Eva Green among many others.

Known for her casual, playful attitude on shoots, her lack of pretense is the key to why her photographs resonate — they feel warm, human and fun. Von Unwerth's photography revels in sexual intrigue, femininity, fetishism and sheer joie de vivre. Her subjects are never objectified, even though some may flaunt personal fantasies and others are guarded and secretive, suggesting that we have stumbled into a secret world. Fashion and fantasy are enthrallingly combined in a way no male photographer could dare.

A supermodel before the phrase was truly coined, von Unwerth is responsible for several books of photography, as well as directing fashion short films and music videos. Top journals such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Arena, L’uomo Vogue, and ID have been consistent users of her inimitable fashion photography since she first picked up a camera.

Ellen von Unwerth >

Ellen von Unwerth, Mask, Paris, 1991, detail, © Ellen von Unwerth, courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery.

Roy Lichtenstein, The Grip, 1962, oil on canvas, 30 x 30 1/4 in., detail.

A Changing Relationship between Painting and Sculpture
A Changing Ratio takes as its premise the historical arc linking mid-20th-century nonrepresentational painting with the sculptural innovations that began in the 1960s. As sculpture came into its own and began to wield influence on the production of art, boundaries between the two media became increasingly blurred.

Changing Ratio >>

Franz Marc, Kühe, Gelb-Rot-Grün, 1912, Oil on canvas, 62 x 87.5 cm, detail.

Der Blaue Reiter, Great Realism and Great Abstraction
The Blue Rider movement emerged from the former group of artists Neue Künstlervereinigung München (New Artist’s Association of Munich), its first exhibition at the Gallery Thannhauser in Munich in 1911 was creating a stir.

Der Blaue Reiter >>

Mieczyslaw Górowski, born 1941. Policja (The Police), 1982, detail.

Polish Posters and Design, Cold War Era, 1945-1989
Polish Posters 1945-89, is drawn from the MOMA’s collection of 24 posters from the Cold War era of the Polish Poster School, which attracted international attention and admiration, featuring designers like Henryk Tomaszewski, Roman Cieslewicz, Jan Lenica, and Franciszek Starowieyski.

Polish Postersl >>

Barry McGee, Untitled, 1994, Mixed media on driftwood, 22 x 16", detail.

Mission School, a Phenomenon from the Bay Area
Energy that is All Around/Mission School is the first East Coast museum exhibition to highlight these artworks that have achieved cult-like status in the Bay Area and beyond. Most are never-before-seen early pieces from the artists’ own collections.

The Mission School >>

Leila Pazooki,
2-Minute Trips
to the Dimension of Human Frailty

A woman stands on a verdant clifftop near Cancun in Mexico. The wind has blown her summer dress tight to her, the pale sea is whitened with surf. She’s in silence. This could almost be a perfect photograph. But it isn’t. We see the fronds of the palm trees around her rattling in the wind, we see a boat, just in the distance, bobbing lazily. And her face, trying to maintain a sincere smile, twitches in the rising and falling waves of her self-consciousness.

This is Iranian artist Leila Pazooki’s Two Minute Photo; an ironic yet sympathetic reflection on the frailties of our picture-perfect moments. Taking her video camera to Mexico, southern Spain, Germany and parts of Iran, Pazooki found complete strangers and asked if she could film them, posing in the style of a holiday snap, for two long minutes.

Pazooki questions the very nature of our pursuit of "paradise," and the idea that we can capture and affirm this with our cameras. The photograph has become ubiquitous. We fill our lives with these monuments to our "good times," a reflection of what the artist identifies as our constant search to fix the perfect moment. In the flash of a camera, that perfection appears to be assured. But by freezing these moments, and letting life continue around them, Pazooki shows us life’s inescapable imperfection. She shows us the flimsiness of the idea that we can capture or fix life in the shape of perfection, as the tide washes in around our feet.

Of course, it’s not all quite so tragic. There’s an unavoidable streak of irony that runs through what Pazooki is doing. It’s in the haughty, poseur attitude of two Iranian women, sitting in a café with their cocked eyebrows hidden only by huge, designer sunglasses. It’s in the coquettish pose of two girls in front of the sea in Andalucia, how their legs shudder under the unnatural pose they offer to the camera. We see these people, these characters that Pazooki has discovered, laying their self-image bare to crumble as the camera rolls on.

But why is there some sadness about all of the images in this show? Is it stillness that provokes this feeling? Perhaps it’s that we can empathise with these posing people. We have all grinned in group shots, pulled unnatural faces, given something of ourselves to a snapshot. So when we see these moments, stretched to the horizon, we also see the inevitable decay about them. We are witness to the tragic mirror that these settings, carefully picked to reflect the greatest sense of time passing (a shoreline, a windswept clifftop, a busy café), hold up to the notion that we can hold onto perfection in its transience.

Perhaps it’s the rawness in what we’re seeing. Time strips us down, Pazooki seems to say. By putting a prolonged tension on our perfected pose, we see it buckle under the strain. We can understand the flashes of self-consciousness in the eyes of her subjects. We can imagine the black lens staring at them, scrutinising them. We even understand, and perhaps smile along, when these people let an unstoppable smirk overcome their faces.

We are acutely aware of Pazooki herself in these videos. The artist refers to all of these works as a ‘documentation of a performance’: the act of her approaching complete strangers with the intention to stare into their eyes for two minutes, and for them to stare back. Pazooki hints at it as a confrontation, she calls their poses ‘provocative’ — yet not in a seductive sense. Is there some kind of standoff here that Pazooki’s films are documenting, and is this why we see a shaky camera — why she refused a tripod?

Leila Pazooki >

Leila Pazooki, Two Minute Photo,Berlin, Video, 2 min, 2009.