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Photographers Inez van Lamsweerde/Vinoodh Matadin, designer Veronique Leroy.

When Dutch photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin trained their camera on the Spring/Summer collection of Belgian-born Veronique Leroy, the chemistry was instant. Haunted by the souped-up glamour of the '80s, Leroy reworks the decade's fetishistic, hypersexy fashions (epitomized by Thierry Mugler); her designs make for a perfect match with Van Lamsweerde and Matadin's canny revisioning of Guy Bourdin's surreal fashion photography of the '60s and '70s. Both share an arch regard for the codes and cliches of glamour, and it is this affinity that electrified the April '94 spread for The Face. Since then the Dutch team has continued to work with Leroy (who asked them to design the invitations for her last two shows), and gone on to shoot the designs of John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, Helmut Lang, and Herve Leger. Recently their photographs have appeared in publications (including American Vogue) with increasing frequency. But when asked to select several images for the pages of Artforum that best expressed the marriage of their own vision with that of a designer, the Dutch pair returned to Leroy's work and that seminal spread for The Face.

While Van Lamsweerde, who trained as an artist and shows her gallery work widely, has always shuttled between the art world and the runway, it was only four years ago that she joined forces with stylist Matadin to create the fashion spreads that have become their trademark. Using the computer-graphics toolbox, Quantel Paintbox, the pair not only "enhance" the models - elongating body parts, heightening the sheen of skin - they also create virtual backdrops that at once mimic and subvert the vision of high-adventure and exotica (artificial lakes, palm trees, and bright-red rockets) identified with '80s-style advertising. With their steroid-fueled metaglamour - mile-high legs, predatory glances, electric hairdos, and sensually made-up mouths - these hermetically sealed vignettes present a virtual (and truly inaccessible) ideal of beauty.

The sexual drive is no longer focused on the female body/object, as it is for Helmut Newton, but circulates throughout the entire image, irradiating every component. Though Van Lamsweerde and Matadin draw on Bourdin's oneiric esthetic, they take it a step further, representing the unconscious of fashion itself: its autoeroticism and fantasies of domination over the body, otherness, and femininity.

Leroy's designs effect a similar unveiling. In pointed contrast to her Belgian peers - deconstructionists Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, and Dries van Noten, who turned their backs on the glamour decade, preferring to emphasize the structure or the history of a particular garment - the Paris-trained Leroy picks up where Mugler, Claude Montana, and Azzedine Alaia left off and does them one better. Cutting her garments from fluorescent-colored synthetics like vinyl, knit, and Naugahyde, Leroy favors explosive bustlers, provocative slits, and plunging, zippered necklines, and props her Amazonian models on spike-heeled shoes decorated with gold chains. Yet where she follows Alaia (her former mentor) in her use of stretchy Lycra to highlight the curves of the body, her collection, with its evening dresses emblazoned with flame motifs typically reserved for custom-painted hot-rods (Summer '96) or the stewardess/barmaid look (Winter '95), throw the fashion image's objectification of woman into caricatured relief.

Taking this tightrope act with respect to the codes and cliches of the industry from the runway to the printed page requires the sympathetic collaboration of the photographer. In Van Lamsweerde and Matadin's high-intensity images, Leroy has discovered a take on the fashion system as vitriolic in its anticonformism as her own.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Artforum International Magazine, Inc.
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Author:Zahm, Oliver
Publication:Artforum International
Date:Feb 1, 1996
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