Paintings of Blondes by Lisa Yuskavage (l) and John Currin (r)
In an EXCLUSIVE statement to this School of Visual Arts CE Blog, Jeffrey Deitch announced his first exhibition at LA MOCA, where he was recently appointed as its Director.
The survey Gentlemen Prefer Blondes will inaugurate Deitch’s directorship of the institution, which has struggled in recent years. Focusing on art made by or about blonde American women artists, it will also take the unorthodox position of including art represented and sold by blonde women, and art collected by blonde women.
(l-r) Sothebys' Lisa Dennison; Artist Kristin Baker, gentleman, Curator Alison Gingeras
“Just What Is It that Makes Today’s Blondes So Different, So Appealing?” asks Deitch, both rhetorically and literally. “Moreover, Where Do Blondes Come From? What Are Blondes? Where Are Blondes Going?”
More Fun: (l-r) Artist Jen DeNike, Gallerist Amy Smith-Stewart, Artist Meredith Danluck
“Jeffrey realized that there’s something special about blondes, that they are rare, and they are often charismatic and individual,” said a Deitch/LA MOCA staff member who requested anonymity because she was not authorized to comment. “Being blonde is a special talent that really can’t be taught. In that sense, Blondes are much like artists. Both are often marginalized. The show is ultimately about awareness.”
Cicciolina (top) and Jeff Koons (bottom)
To even further defy convention, “Gentlemen” will also include art made by famous actresses and media figures, living or dead, perhaps a consequence of Deitch’s recent relocation to Hollywood. Sources have reported that Deitch has met with several top talent agencies, while today’s statement already confirms the inclusion of blonde entertainers Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, Paris Hilton, Jennifer Aniston, Jihad Jane, Anne Coulter, and Carrie Prejean, who currently faces a lawsuit regarding unpaid PR services, as reported earlier this week.
Jihad Jane (l), Cindy McCain (r)
Though the show will occupy the entire MOCA facility, one gallery will be dedicated to Brittany Murphy, whose death last December occurred in the same week that Deitch negotiated with Eli Broad over the future of LA MOCA.
“Blondes are just as famous in life as in death,” says Deitch. “Take the late JonBenet Ramsey. She has become a near universal icon of the dangers faced by little blonde girls.”
The controversial show raises some complicated questions about curating and exhibiting art, and indeed, the nature of art itself.
(l-r) Karen Kilimnik w/ Kirsten Dunst; Kim Cattrall w/ Klaus Biesenbach
(l-r) Artist Anne Collier; Artist Charline von Heyl w/ Kim Gordon
“We embrace troubling questions,” says Deitch. “For example, what about women who have dyed their hair blonde? Dyed blondes commit their time, energy, and money to maintain their blonde look. Dedication like that proves that they might truly be blonde on the inside.”
(l-r) Brunettes w/ Blonde gallerist Elizabeth Dee
“Anyway, it’s the only way to admit Madge,” he added, before gently chiding viewers about blonde classification. “We prefer not to call them ‘Bottle Blondes,’ which others may mistakenly relate to nursing. And in this economy, let’s tread lightly around hair coloring products, which make up a multi-billion dollar industry.”
(l-r) Curator Lauren Cornell w/ brunettes; brunette assisting art dealer Marianne Boesky
Deitch anticipates unease about framing a show around its participants’ hair color, something that is arguably, in a larger sense, outside of their control. To solve this problem, Deitch has invited blonde Lauren Cornell, Executive Director of Rhizome and Adjunct Curator at the New Museum, to work alongside MOCA curator Paul Schimmel. Previously, Lauren Cornell co-curated Younger than Jesus at the New Museum, a show similarly determined in part by the biological constitution of its participants.
Smart Blonde: Lauren Cornell (l) and Lauren Cornell (r)
“She is a smart blonde,” Deitch asserts.
Artist Jessica Craig-Martin reading Sean Landers' book, SIC
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes also takes risks because it is comprised entirely of women. Will this strike museum audiences as myopic – or even discriminatory? And is this problem compounded by the prevalence of male artists painting female subjects? Deitch demurs, insisting that Blonde women deserve institutional regard.
Amanda Lepore by David LaChapelle, ditto
“First, women artists have been systematically underexposed, even though they have always contributed just as much to Art as men have. Remember, there would be no artists at all if women did not give birth to them.”
Sante D'Orazio, "Smiling" (l) and Mel Ramos "Doggie Dinah" (r)
“Second, ‘blonde’ is culturally a more potent signifier where women are concerned. It is gender-specific. Blonde women can be idolized. Blond men, ironically, seem emasculated.”
Blond Men: Do They Matter?
With uncharacteristic brio, Deitch dares the reader:
“Name three famous blonde women and three famous blond men. The latter is considerably more difficult, because nobody cares about blond men.”
Gold = fun ; more Gold = more fun