Wednesday, October 4, 2000

Mixed media

Posted By on Wed, Oct 4, 2000 at 12:00 AM

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Smock, a new magazine of art and fashion, is the next logical step in a culture where pop icons and heavily branded kids’ toys are choice items on McDonalds’ menu. But if cross-marketing and corporate synergy have got you on a pessimism trip, this forward-thinking hybrid of the moment works all its creative muscle to restore the culturally imperiled pleasure of multisensory revelation.

Forget about “smart” fashion mags that water down the satori of art until it’s elevator music for this year’s poodle-skirt revival. Smock helps us understand why Issey Miyaki and Giorgio Armani deserve the recognition of art museums. It also drives home the suspicion that figural art is as completely indebted to fashion as fashion is right now to the imaginations of visual artists.

The magazine itself starts off a little awkwardly, proposing pieces of footwear for every kind of gallery opening, and offering self-consciously explanatory visual essays on why the magazine ought to exist. But by the time painter Gordon Terry and photographer Otten superimpose each other’s work, the payoff has emerged. Even in such cases where it’s easy to see the seams where the media are stitched together, the result is a stunning flip-flop.

And just when you think the next step in this direction would be a fashion layout with artists as models, up comes rock ’n’ roll photographer Michael Lavine to add celebrity veneer to the faces and figures of folks who make their living just a little farther from the spotlight. The show-stealer here is the descriptive message which flanks each photo. For no matter how thoroughly the artist slips into the visual syntax of fame, we’re trained to know the reasons for celebrity, and the descriptions of the works and idioms of the artists throughout this spread end up becoming as compelling and alive as the glam photos themselves.

This mag draws ample energy from two almost inexhaustible sources and makes the meeting work. The only question is whether the quest for attention that propels both art and fashion will allow them each to continue sharing the spotlight in Smock’s glossy binding.

Marc Christensen writes about books and music for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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