Helmut Newton's "View From My Window, Rue de L'Abbe l'Eppe,… (Perry Rubenstein Gallery )
There is a simple plaque near the entrance of the Chateau Marmont hotel that reads: "Helmut Newton: 1920-2004." The sign commemorates the death of the famous German photographer, who died at age 83 after crashing his car into a wall outside the hotel, but it's also a reminder of Newton's ties to L.A.
By the end of his life he spent winters here and shot extensively in and around the Sunset Strip hotel. And throughout his career as a fashion photographer with fans in the art world, he idealized a blond, long-legged, athletic sort of female beauty that could alternately be described as Germanic or Californian.
Now Perry Rubenstein is bringing some of Newton's provocative black-and-white images of bare-breasted women, alongside some lesser-known aerial photographs and landscapes, back to his adopted home.
A recent New York transplant, Rubenstein has announced that the first exhibition at his new L.A. gallery will be Newton's "Sex and Landscapes." Organized with support from June Newton, the artist's collaborator and widow, the show of 40 large-scale photographs spanning three decades opens June 1.
Rubenstein, who never met Newton, says he discovered his work in the early '80s while working briefly as a fashion model in Europe. "I was working in Milan and Paris when Helmut was emerging as an icon, and I knew a lot of women — he only photographed women — who posed for him," said Rubenstein. "They were the ultimate professionals. I don't want to say they would torture themselves but they knew there was an intangible premium from working with him. It was the equivalent of working with a great film director, a Fellini or Godard."
This set of images has been exhibited before, starting with a show organized by the Zurich gallery De Pury and Luxembourg in 2001 that traveled to several cities worldwide. But they have not been shown as a group in L.A., even though several of the pictures were taken in Beverly Hills, Sherman Oaks or at the Chateau Marmont.
The gallerist says he was drawn to these L.A. connections as well as the sheer scale of the prints, sized at 63 by 43 inches. He says they are priced from $60,000 to $250,000 and in most cases are the last available examples from editions of three.
Rubenstein's new 8,500-square-foot gallery at 1215 N. Highland Ave. in Hollywood, designed by Kulapat Yantrasast of WHY Architecture, features two exhibition spaces separated by a courtyard. In September he will show new work by L.A. artist Zoe Crosher and, across the way, an acclaimed shadow puppet installation by German artist Hans-Peter Feldmann.
But this time the Newton exhibition will take over both spaces, and, no, Rubenstein won't separate the so-called sex pictures from the landscapes. "I have the feeling the juxtapositions will be critical — I have no intention of separating the two."
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