The two current exhibitions at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, “Cinematic Couture” and “Unapologetic Lines: Fashion Illustrations by Marc-Antoine Coulon,” celebrate a heady double whammy of stardom and fashion.
In his clean but seductive illustrations showcased in “Unapologetic Lines,” Paris-based illustrator Marc-Antoine Coulon has captured the magnificent colors and textures of couture fashion shows where designs by Versace, Givenchy and Gaultier parade down international runways. His style is retro, clean and has a timeless quality. Coulon’s illustrations appear in international fashion magazines including Vogue, Elle, Town & Country and InStyle.
As if that weren’t rarefied enough, Coulon also creates portraits — often working from photographs — of fashion, Hollywood and media heavyweights. Stars living and dead including Steve McQueen, Nina Simone, Elizabeth Taylor, Isabella Rossellini, Winona Ryder, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and Vogue editor Anna Wintour have all been captured in his ink on paper drawings with his subject isolated like an expensive jewel in velvet against a background of pure white.
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Like a master woodcarver whittling off details and pounds, Coulon creates effigies of perfection. Even movie stars, already people who’ve won the genetic lottery, look nearly extraterrestrial in their perfection in Coulon’s hands. Donatella Versace is graphic and striking rendered in minimalist profile, and fashion designer Nicolas Ghesquiere is a stone cold fox. Better than Botox, these portraits subtract years and pile on the glamour. Realism is not the objective here. Instead, these portraits are the illustration equivalent of Horst P. Horst’s or George Hurrell’s cameras; adding a Vaseline glow and an aura of slight-of-pen magic.
Sharing the SCAD FASH space is a related show of costumes sourced from famed London shop Cosprop. Since 1965, the company led by British costumer and Academy Award winner John Bright has created some 100,000 film, television and theater costumes and accessories, many of them requiring extensive historical research. Cosprop’s work can be seen in films as revered as Roman Polanski’s “Tess” and Merchant Ivory’s “A Room With a View.”
Focused on a selection of period costumes from the Cosprop archives, “Cinematic Couture” includes men’s and women’s dress from Stephen Frears’ 1988 “Dangerous Liaisons,” “Downton Abbey” and “Out of Africa.” Costumes worn by Meryl Streep, a surprisingly svelte, towering Johnny Depp, Uma Thurman, Shirley MacLaine and Madonna are featured, giving audiences the contact-high frisson of getting very, very close to fame not unlike the thrill of a Walk of Fame star and celebrity handprints. If celebrity is foregrounded in Coulon’s illustration work, here the star power is more abstract. The costumes say as much about the intricacy and constricting dimension of historical dress as they do about movie star bodies: The female leads in “Downton Abbey,” judging by their costumes, are all consistently reed thin.
While both exhibitions have their appeal for fashion and film fans, neither is probably up to the level of previous SCAD FASH blockbusters centered on Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Guo Pei, “The Handmaid’s Tale” or “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain,” which tended to have more depth and breadth and insight into fashion’s historical shifts as well as the cultural impact of clothing.
“Cinematic Couture” (through March 3) and “Unapologetic Lines: Fashion Illustrations by Marc-Antoine Coulon” (through Jan. 27)
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Wednesdays and Fridays-Saturdays; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursdays; noon-5 p.m. Sundays. $10; $8, senior citizens and military; $5, college students with ID and SCAD alumni; free, children under 14 and SCAD students/faculty/staff. SCAD FASH, 1600 Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta. 404-253-3132, scadfash.org.
Bottom line: Fashion fans will find some appeal in shows centered on fashion illustration and movie costumes that lack the depth and breadth of previous SCAD FASH shows.
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