As photography succumbs to its fate as the art form of the everyman, illustration has once again hit its stride as a relevant and precious medium, embraced with gusto by the fashion world. Where once New York held the vital pizzazz of names like Tony Viramontes and Antonio Lopez, it seems today London has picked up where the Big Apple left off, with William Ling’s Fashion Illustration Gallery in Mayfair leading the pack as a hub for talented illustrators young and old. Celebrating their 20th century heroes amidst a crop of new talent, FIG opens its 2014 summer show this week with an exhibition celebrating the seminal works of the American artist and illustrator (and Studio 54 regular) Richard Bernstein. Bernstein’s painted, sliced, and stenciled celebrity designs graced the covers of over a decade’s worth of Interview Magazine issues from 1972 into the mid-’80s.
Bernstein’s designs were often mistaken for those of Warhol (who would have turned 86 today), but, as Warhol himself exclaimed: “Sometimes people think I do the cover of Interview. Well, I don’t; I haven’t the time. But Richard Bernstein’s faces are wonderful. They’re so colorful, and he makes everyone look so famous.” Often crafted from celebrity portraits photographed by the likes of Herb Ritts and Albert Watson, Bernstein’s works evolved the hyper-coloured, pop aesthetic of the magazine’s early years—his shading, collage, and airbrush methods transforming the likes of Diane Keaton, Mick Jagger, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Matt Dillon, and Elizabeth Taylor into dazzlingly graphic incarnations. “It’s interesting that some of the biggest photographers of the era were prepared to have their photographs painted over,” says FIG founder William Ling, “I can’t imagine that happening so easily now. They are a hybrid, a descendent of the hand-coloured black and white photograph, and there is a richness, a three dimensionality to them. Today the coloured card, scalpel, and glue has been superseded by Photoshop and Illustrator.”
“RICHARD BERNSTEIN INTERVIEW COVER ART” IS ON VIEW AT THE FASHION ILLUSTRATION GALLERY IN LONDON ALONGSIDE A GROUP EXHIBITION OF THE WORLD’S PREMIER FASHION ILLUSTRATORS THROUGH AUGUST 27, 2014.