Blouin Artinfo: Alex Israel, Aaron Young, Others Reinvent Playboy’s “Playmate of the Year”

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LOS ANGELES, May 23, 2013 – When it comes to Playboy, the line used to be, “I read it for the articles.” These days, the more appropriate line seems to be, “I read it for the contemporary art.”

For Neville Wakefield’s first effort as creative director of special projects for the storied men’s magazine, he invited artists Alex Israel, Malerie Marder, and Aaron Young to do creative interpretations of the Playmate of the Year — for 2013, it’s Raquel Pomplun. It’s all part of the magazine’s larger plan to rebrand itself with a more artful edge, a vision that has thus far involved tapping New York gallerist and model May Andersen to pose for the cover, funding art exhibitions like “Giverny,” and collaborating with the likes of design team Cushnie et Ochs for a stretch leather bra unveiled during Art Basel Miami Beach 2012. For its latest endeavor, the chosen artists decamped to West Hollywood’s historic Chateau Marmont hotel to create portraits of Pomplun in their signature styles.

 “By refracting the Playmate through the lens of contemporary art,” said Wakefield about the project over email, “the aim was to explore her dual roles as cultural icon and beautiful individual. The three artists — Alex Israel, Malerie Marder, Aaron Young — each brought with them their own distinct perspectives to create very different types of work in different mediums.”

Marder, a photographer who creates unsettling and intimate nude images of friends and family members, has created some moody, candid-looking shots of Pomplun (one of which is exclusive to ARTINFO.). Young, known best for his performance “Arc Light” for which he had a team of motorcycle riders burn out repeatedly over a set of metallic panels leaving traces of tire tracks, had Pomplun’s body painted various bright colors and pressed against white canvases à la Yves Klein, sort of. Israel conducted an interview with Pomplun in the style of “As it Lays,” his popular series of deadpan celebrity interviews (formerly, he’s chatted with Molly Ringwald, Brett Easton Ellis, and Larry Flynt, among others). Though his interview with Pomplun is not yet completed (Israel said over email that he is still in the process of working on his video portrait of Pomplun), Israel said he asked the Playmate, “Do you believe in The Illuminati?”

This may not have been Israel’s first time interviewing someone who appeared in the magazine — Melanie Griffith and Rosanna Arquette both have — but it was novel in other ways. “I believe this marked my first time interviewing a playmate,” said Israel, “and it was certainly my first playmate of the year. “ But Israel — who talked to the fully-dressed model while in his signature blue suit and sunglasses sitting on a bed in a hotel room — said about the experience that Pomplun “was very open and gracious.”

What do you think about the reinterprations? Are they artful?

Source: Blouin Artinfo