Taryn Simon's 007 Art Opening Draws Jared Leto, Elle Fanning

12:24 PM PST 03/01/2014 by Christopher Wyrick
Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

Simon's opening of her latest exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, "Birds of the West Indies" which homages Bond films, also drew artist Alex Israel and actor Henry Winkler.

Entering artist Taryn Simon’s latest exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, there is a lilting, slightly ominous sound of "Under the Mango Tree," sung by Nikki van der Zyl, who voiced all of Ursula Andress’ lines in the film, Dr. No. The sound emanates from part of a video in which van der Zyl reads all of Andress' character Honey Ryder’s lines from the first Bond film.  Andress was one of only ten Bond girls who refused to be photographed for Simon’s new project "Birds of the West Indies" which spotlights the "It" girls, a where are they now of sorts, of all the Bond girls featured in the iconic films.

The opening for Simon’s new 007 based work -- which also shows the weapons, vehicles and even birds seen in the films -- coincided with Oscar week and what is always one of the more star-studded art events of the year. Simon’s husband Jake Paltrow and Paltrow's mother Blythe Danner were on hand. 

Other notable attendees included John Waters, Jared Leto, Elle Fanningphotographers Greg Gorman and Terry Richardsonnew MOCA director Philippe Vergneand artists Alex Isreal, Sam Falls and Doug Aitken.

The Holywood Reporter spoke with actor Henry Winkler, portrayer of another cool iconic stud, about the show. As to the "real" James Bond, Winkler was definitive: "Sean Connery. Has never been equaled ... maybe Daniel Craig. God bless all of the other actors, but Sean Connery is my favorite because he was limitless." 

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Simon's “Birds of the West Indies” takes its title from an actual volume on birds created by James Bond, the ornithologist on whom Ian Fleming based the secret agent’s name. The first "volume" of the exhibition is a group of images documenting the "Bond girls" along with cars and guns appearing in all of the 007 films. The objects are all photographed on a black background: the "Bell Aerosystems Rocket Belt," the "Mechanical Arm" and several models of the ubiquitous PPK. The women were photographed by Simon in front of a white backdrop.  In contrast to the extreme gender stereotyping of the films, she did not direct them or dictate their appearance.  Some of them, like Helga Brandt 's "Karin Dor," stand plainly, resigned to their lost "It Girl"-ness.  Others, like Kristina Wayborn, "Magda," vamp a little, revisiting the sex symbol status of their youth.

The second "volume" of the series involves an exhaustive ornithological investigation of the Bond films.  In an elaborate turnaround, Simon assumes the role of the actual James Bond, scientist, and documents every bird appearing in the various Bond films.  As with the first volume of the series, all the images are organized in an objective and systematic manner. The artist’s imperfect second generation black and white images begin to associate with other art world photographers who work off of other existing photographs, Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince among them.  Simon is more removed, as no evidence of her hand or image enter the documentation.  This line between the objective and the subjective is of particular interest to the artist.  Simon is soft-spoken but lucid in discussing her research: "I am always skating that line between science and aesthetics.  Science itself often gives the appearance of authority or clear answer, and it is often design that is rendering that certainty.  And I like playing with that and creating systems that appear certain in my work, and that appear absolute, but are in fact just creations of my own."

"Birds of the West Indies" will be on view at Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills until April 12, 2014.

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