Avant-Garde, Guy Bourdin
November 27, 2015 – February 21, 2016
With surrealism, sharp humour and a deeply radical approach, Guy Bourdin changed the scene of photography. His work, whether in editorial or advertising broke aesthetic conventions, always characterized by a dramatic intensity and relentless perfectionism. Fotografiska is proud to present the exhibition, “Avant-Garde,” an extensive insight into the work of the legendary photographer and painter, Guy Bourdin.
Generations of photographers and visual artists from Sarah Moon and Märta Thisner to Inez & Vinoodh, regard Bourdin as an inspiration. His influence has transcended time and the ebb and flow of fashion, positioning his work within the context of contemporary art.
The surrealist and Dadaist Man Ray was a great source of inspiration for Guy Bourdin, and their mutual appreciation for each other resulted in Man Ray writing a special introduction for one of Bourdin’s first exhibitions. Bourdin became famed for his suggestive narratives and surreal scenes and transformed the mundane into extraordinary scenes piquing the subconscious of the viewer and igniting the imagination. He developed a signature technique of hyper saturated colours and interplays of shadows and light, low horizons and high grounds, tightly cropped compositions as well as minute detail to his model’s make-up.
Still today, Bourdin’s revolutionary vision pervades fashion and commercial image-making. He was the first to place primary importance on the image over the product. His deft use of humour and innuendo encouraged the imagination of his audiences, challenging conventional expectations. Drawing the viewer in with his mysterious narratives and carefully staged scenes he irreverently dismissed conventions, and his advertising campaigns, such as the “Walking Legs” series for the Charles Jourdan footwear brand were an immediate sensation.
A contemporary to Helmut Newton, they both marked a turning point in fashion photography, each with his own aesthetics. From his first image published in Vogue Paris, 1955, Guy Bourdin presented his own signature, instantly recognisable. He demanded total creative freedom where he could hand over for publication one cropped negative only and gaining high respect for his unique layouts, double page spreads and use of the centrefold.
“Avant-Garde” features many of Guy Bourdin’s most significant works and unveils his paintings, Cine Films, Polaroids, sketches and texts, providing insight into Guy Bourdin’s oeuvre and the complex work process of this visionary image-maker.
For over 40 years, Guy Bourdin’s photographs re-defined the limits of what constitutes contemporary fashion photography and continue to inspire and excite today. An autodidact whose life was devoted to a wide spectrum of artistic search. Using fashion photography as his medium, he explored the realms between the absurd and the sublime.
In 1985, Guy Bourdin was awarded the Grand Prix National de la Photographie by the French Ministry of Culture, which he humbly refused. In 1988, he received the Infinity Award from the International Centre of Photography in New York. In 1991 he passed away at the age of 62, in his home in Paris.
Unclassifiable, unpredictable, versatile, cultured; Guy Bourdin remains an enigma.