Pierre Molinier, Self-portrait with Painting, 1966
Collection: Art Gallery of NSW

Curator Judy Annear has followed her February exhibition The Image of Man with Discipline & Beauty, a comprehensive show which charts imagery of women, photography and fashion from the 1930s to the 1990s. What makes D&B entirely different from The Image of Man is not the shift from male to female representations, but the role fashion plays in photography, popular culture, and what might be regarded soft porn.

D&B (no doubt a pun on B&D) features a mini retrospective of fashion photographer Helmut Newton. There is a curious dichotomy in Newton’s images, the feminine being lushly objectified, or maimed by the interrogating lens. Saddle II, Paris features a model straddling an armchair like a (clothes) horse, the ultimate show pony. Framed by her silhouette and a grand piano, the image is both erotic and humorous. 

In his portrait of Jenny Kapitan, she poses in her bedroom nude but for the cast on her leg, the brace on her neck and the walking stick she leans on. Both disturbing and distinguished, it reveals Newton as a perverse auteur of the classic 'fashion victim'.

Other photographers exhibited include Laurence Le Guay, Horst P. Horst, Athol Smith and William Klein. The work of one of the four women artists, Bettina Rheims, is a visually confronting series from 1990 called Modern Lovers. Rheims avoids the glamorous representation of the feminine and portrays the androgynous body as a constructed one, rendered with a visceral sense of intimacy. For Pierre Molinier, who gets his freak-on with photographic fetishism, female figures are aligned with the mannequin and the fetish is inscribed on the body as an erotic necessity. Elsewhere, Robert Mapplethorpe's portrait of bodybuilder Lisa Lyons encapsulates the promise of beauty as a form of discipline, and bondage as the uniform of discipline.

Re-edited, December 2021

Bettina Rheims, Sasha from the series Modern Lovers, 1989
Collection: Art Gallery of NSW

Review of Discipline and Beauty at Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, 28 June 1997 – 17 August 1997.

Published by Sydney Star Observer, 10 July in 1997.