Friday, March 08, 2019

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

Grunge Lives On at Morrison Hotel Gallery's Photo Exhibition

Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, 1993,
hand signed by photographer Jesse Frohman
Click images for full-size views

“Here we are now, entertain us, I feel stupid and contagious…” Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” so emblematic of the early ‘90s grunge era seemed to be the theme for last night’s opening party at the Morrison Hotel Gallery’s “Grunge: The Rise of a Generation.”  Grunge Month continues now through March 31st at the photo gallery, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Nirvana’s debut album “Bleach” and the 25th anniversary of Soundgarden’s “Superunkown” while Kurt Cobain would have recently had his 52nd birthday.

Marc Jacobs for Perry Ellis 1993 Collection
Photo: Vogue.com

Of course, we recently experienced a retrospective in the fashion world with Marc Jacobs Redux Grunge Collection – a reissue from the infamous Spring 1993 turn -- the one that left every major editor walking out mid-show shaking their heads, leading to his dismissal from the Perry Ellis label and the creation of his own brand.

1.7 Mountain View, CA 1994
hand signed by photographer Jay Blakesberg

From the Morrison Hotel Gallery’s press release I quote: “Characterized by frayed fashion, a brooding sense of apathy and slow, riff-heavy sounds, the grunge era not only soundtracks an angst-ridden coming of age but moreover defines the general sentiments of an entire generation. A musical genre unlike any other, grunge took the aggression of punk and the intensity of heavy metal and added elements that gave the music its signature grinding, sludgy distortion. Hitting its commercial stride by the early 90s, "the Seattle sound" gives rise of a pantheon of grunge gods including but not limited to Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and the evergreen Kurt Cobain once dubbed by Time as "the John Lennon of the swinging Northwest."

Chris Cornell, Soundgarden, 1991
hand signed by photographer Karen Mason-Blair

Grunge is probably not fashion’s finest hour – in fact it is "anti-fashion" -- less aspirational, more perspirational. Jacobs apparently intended his show as a tribute to what the models were wearing off-duty and, no doubt, we still see some of its influence. When someone says grunge I think of it in its purest form rather than what I saw on attendees last night which IMO was more Punk. The idea of grunge was to look as if you’d picked up whatever random clothing was lying on the floor from yesterday hence Cobain's "Come As You Are."

Grungy guests
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Putting any effort into it negates the point, or if you did it was not to look as if you'd fussed with your hair, clothing or makeup. One of the wearable art designers from Patricia Field’s ArtFashion stable SSIK (pronounced backwards as “Kiss”) was in attendance and had clearly outfitted several guests in her signature latex drip embellished clothing – think somewhere between the wax of a massive candle melting and Nickelodeon slime.

Kurt Cobain & Courtney Love, 1992
hand signed by photographer Michael Lavine

This was, to my eye, a more eclectic scene for people watching than ever before at MHG. I especially liked staffers getting into it -- at one end of the room the DJ manned the table wearing a SSIK multicolored rubber neckpiece -- at the other end of the room the flannel shirt clad bartender poured Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum (no chardonnay for this crowd!) with a flourish into black plastic cups brandishing the sponsor name.

More grungy guests
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Bands featured in this photo exhibition include Alice in Chains, Hole, L7, Mudhoney, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, and Stone Temple Pilots. Photographers include Richard Bellia, Jay Blakesberg, Justin Borucki, Danny Clinch, Henry Diltz, Jesse Frohman, Lynn Goldsmith, JJ Gonson, Bob Gruen, Karen Mason-Blair, Clay Patrick McBride, Catherine McGann, Lance Mercer, Dustin Rabin, Amy Rachlin and Ebet Roberts.

Another grungy guest designer Ssik
Photo: laurel Marcus

On March 14th Jesse Frohman will give a talk discussing his photo shoots with Cobain and Cornell. His book, “Kurt Cobain: The Last Session,” will be available for sale.


The scene
Photo: Laurel Marcus

"As someone who came into adulthood within the era, I never imagined the possibility-much less, the importance-of revisiting the period through fresh eyes in collaboration with some of my favorite photographers and artists of all time. With that, I am eager to present this special exhibition of such social and personal significance this spring at Morrison Hotel Gallery,” said Marcelle Murdock, gallery director.



- Laurel Marcus

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