Jeff Mermelstein, Work Oeuvre Opera @Wester

JTF (just the facts): A total of 13 color photographs, framed in black and unmatted, and hung in the single room gallery space against grey and white walls. All of the works are chromogenic prints on Kodak Endura ultra matte paper, made in 2010. The prints are either 14×22 or 28×41 (or reverse); there are 6 of the smaller size and 7 of the larger size in the show. Edition sizes are either 6 or 8, depending on the image. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Jeff Mermelstein’s images of Fashion Week in Milan, Paris, and New York from 2010 are witty examples of outsider anthropology. On assignment for New York magazine, he dropped into this eccentric subculture and captured off-the-catwalk moments of backstage oddity and harried showmanship. It’s a sharp look at the stylized world of fashion, delivered with dry, quirky humor.

Many of Mermelstein’s images surround moments of fit and finish, where models are being prepared and head-to-toe looks are being optimized: an unruly pile of wigs and hair extensions becomes a tangled mess, pink lipstick is smeared across the lips of a model covered in hair clips, and another leggy model in short shorts wears huge orange sunglasses near a jumbled gathering of potential shoe options. A stuffed tiger, a handful of red fingernails, an androgynous model in body paint, and the electric explosion of Grace Coddington’s orange hair only add to the weirdness of it all.

These images take Mermelstein away from his usual street photography and toward the aesthetic of Martin Parr, which I think works quite effectively given the subject matter. While not every photograph on view here is entirely memorable, there are enough strikingly unconventional and idiosyncratic snippets of the underside of fashion to keep the show plenty lively.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced at either $3500 or $5500, based on size. Mermelstein’s work has not yet entered the secondary markets in any significant manner, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Reviews/Features: New Yorker (here), Photo Booth (here), New York (here)

Jeff Mermelstein, Work Oeuvre Opera

Through June 25th

511 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10001

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JTF (just the facts): Self-published in 2023 (no website link). Hardcover (21.7 x 28 cm), 98 pages, with 58 black and white photographs. Design by the artist. (Cover and spread ... Read on.

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