On November 14, France’s Maurice Renoma will bring his iconoclastic style to New York City for the first time in the form of a unique photography retrospective of his work behind the camera over the last twenty years. In France, Renoma is known as the pioneer designer of the French Yé Yé pop movement who both styled and photographed the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Elton John, Catherine Deneuve, Serge Gainsbourg, and Iggy Pop – who the artist prefers to call “friends” more than clients or colleagues.
Through his styling, design and photography Maurice Renoma is credited with almost single-handedly reviving French men’s fashion in the 1960’s, as he explains that,”then, the society was very conservative. We were prisoners and I took the liberty of expressing myself through fashion and clothes. I shattered the dress codes of conservatism with my designs. It was a revolution and a liberation for young people.”
A true iconoclast and aesthetic revolutionary in is own right, Renoma’s photography employs the time-honored visual device of juxtaposition, if not outright collision, of forms and images in a sharp, curious and witty mode of Pop Surrealism. This practice of juxtaposition for Renoma goes back to when he had a photo shoot with both James Dean and Marilyn Monroe who quickly came to despise one another on set. After the shoot, having captured absolutely no natural chemistry between the young “It” kids on celluloid, Maurice was forced to create a relationship between them through creative (analog) copy and pasting in post-production. Just as the confidently smiling faces of superheroes and heroines came to emblazon Renoma’s signature fitted blazers, this sense of play continues in his photography — an old curmudgeon-y looking man’s face on a youthful nude woman’s body, or a horse’s head solidly staring out at the viewer from atop human body in a business suit, all beautifully rendered and tightly executed.
Renoma’s legendary boutique White House opened in Paris in 1963 and quickly became “the” salon-like destination for creative luminaries such as Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. To say it another way, he was to ’60’s Parisian cultural zeitgeist what Andy Warhol and Malcolm McLaren were to New York and London respectively, carving out a niche for a new kind of freeplay counterculture to incubate and rise up within a mass culture of anomie and conservatism-become-bordeom. Daft Punk even name drops Renoma’s still-vibrant influence on culture with their song Renoma Street.
It will be interesting to see how this French legend fares in a city where the events, figures and “friends” from his own fragrant and golden past are becoming more and more faint undertones. In a city such as New York he may very well be as intensely unknown as he is known in Europe – a phenomenon at once generational and national, and perhaps more attributable to American ignorance of all things non-American. We’re excited to see the show. And who knows, maybe Mick Jagger or Elton John will show up, or even better, a hip young hoard of Neo-Yé-Yé all-stars ready to begin a new movement.
November 14th through December 14th. The opening reception will take place on Thursday, November 14th from 6-8 p.m. at Bertrand Delacroix Gallery, 535 West 25th Street, New York, NY. RSVP is required.
Words: Lizanne Merrill Artlyst NY Corespondent
Photo: © Maurice Renoma 2013