Feathers, fur, vinyl, glitter, Lurex, drag queens, teenage rebels: can a show about the 1970s be more than a nostalgia trip? Pop motifs transformed visual culture in the 1960s, but “rock should tart itself up a bit more”, David Bowie told Cream magazine in the 1970s, and it was that decade that really saw the convergence of art, music, fashion and performance. Liverpool’s exhibition, touring to Germany and Austria in 2013-14, is the first to explore how the “Glam” aesthetic of kitsch and androgyny permeated art in Europe and North America – a theme which brings together figures as diverse as David Hockney, Richard Hamilton, Gilbert & George, Andy Warhol, Sigmar Polke.
So Hockney’s classical marriage portrait of fashion designers Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell, “Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy” (1971), the most loved work in the show, is presented in the context of dandyism, the ironic pose, the performative art of Gilbert & George. A step away are Cindy Sherman and Lynda Benglis, who embraced glamour to satirise cultural values of beauty and gender stereotypes. Jack Smith’s no-budget films, using discarded colour reversal film stock, share with Allen Jones’ mixed media works an interest in trash, and artifice-as-eroticism.
In a centrepiece of the show, Marc Camille Chaimowicz adapts his 1972 “Celebration? Realife”, a glitter-strewn installation of mirror balls and stage lighting, accompanied by David Bowie’s music, for Liverpool. It embodies the coming together of art and life that marks the work of this generation – Derek Jarman’s Super 8 diaries; Nan Goldin’s explicit photographs of the lives and loves of her friends in the gay, hard-drug subculture of the Bowery; James Lee Byars, clad in red silk and holding a gold-coloured megaphone, standing on the roof of the Fridericianum to call a roll of German first names at Kassel’s Documenta in 1972. Indeed, the increasingly mainstream role of performance in the visual arts may be Glam’s longest legacy.
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