Not to be Missed: Richard Avedon's "Women" at L.A.'s Gagosian Gallery

Photograph by Richard Avedon ┬ęThe Richard Avedon Foundation. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Douglas M. Parker Studio.

GQ's Director of Photography Dora Somosi fills us in on this inspiring new exhibit of Richard Avedon's work in Los Angeles.
Looking at photographs is my job and I do it all day, so it's rare that I am emotionally overwhelmed by a gallery show. Sure, there have been occasions when a museum retrospective has left me in awe -- but a gallery show? Usually they're so much smaller, highlighting one specific moment in a career, and so the experience, for me, tends to be more educational than emotional. 
But then I went to Richard Avedon's show currently on display on the Gagosian Gallery in LA, and the moment I walked in I knew that this space was meant to show his work, and that it might not be possible to pull off a better curatorial arrangement of this particular body of work, titled simply, Women. 

The first room you walk into has the type of artist's-loft skylight that Avedon surely would have adored; it is reminiscent of the lighting in some of his most famous fashion photographs, in which he exposed the trapping of his studio. The first set of prints you come across are larger than six feet--impressively massive--and the printing is exquisite. The rest of the exhibit unfolds over three additional rooms, two of which highlight contact sheets--one set is backlit, the way  transparencies would be viewed--and one with an impressive floor-to-ceiling collage of his framed photographs. It's all so riveting that, while I was there, a masters class from a university observed a museum-like stillness as they moved through the work.
The range of photographs shows the artists' versatility, humor, technical ingenuity and love of surprise--the breadth of ages, types, personalities of the women on display is staggering. You can lose yourself in any single portrait, but viewing the collection all together makes you appreciate how much Avedon adored studying women, and how well he was able to capture their intelligence, beauty and personal narratives in a single frame.
It's the type of show that someone like me dreams about experiencing: one that will inform everything I think about personally and professionally going forward. If you can't get to Los Angeles to see it in person, buy the catalog ($100). It'll surely be out of print in a month--and then you'll have a collector's item on your hands. 
Dora Somosi is GQ's Director of Photography
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