Thursday evening, barely three miles due west of the massive Paris Photo fair, Paul Smith Los Angeles was celebrating a photo exhibition of its own -- an unabashed Blondie bash that featured band members Debbie Harry and Chris Stein at the center of a celebrity scrum that included musicians Jody Watley, Duff McKagan and Moby, actor Scott Caan and photographer Greg Gorman.
Stein, who studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York, was dabbling in photography before founding the band with Harry in 1974, and the party marked the opening of an exhibition of his photos that had been mounted to coincide with the band’s 40th anniversary. (Before coming to Los Angeles it was originally on display at London’s Somerset House.) Most -- but not all -- of the images on display involve Harry in a range of intimate, and sometimes humorous moments plucked from the performer’s past.
A few of the standout images on display included a black-and-white photo titled “Deb & Warhol,” which features Harry sitting patiently as Andy Warhol pushes a whisp of hair from her forehead, a color print (“Zebra”), which has the singer vamping in a zebra-print dress in front of a zebra-print back drop, and a black-and-white photo (“Devo”) that has a hard-hat-wearing Harry using a push broom to sweep the members of Devo into a pile on the street.
But our hands-down favorite is a black-and-white photo of Harry circa 1982 in which she’s wearing a black leather jacket and holds a newspaper in her black-gloved hands. The viewer’s eye first focuses on the outsized newspaper headline: “WOMEN ARE JUST SLAVES" before moving up to the visual punchline: Harry’s icy gaze cast directly at the camera.
It’s worth popping into Paul Smith’s pink palace on Melrose Avenue to see the pop-up exhibition, which will be on premises until May 24. The boutique will also be selling copies of Stein’s book “Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk,” some retro-fantastic Blondie on vinyl and a range of framed and unframed prints from the exhibition.
Chris Stein at Paul Smith Los Angeles, 8221 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles through May 24.
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