Magpie and copyist

By GREG COOK  |  November 24, 2009

The Peabody Essex offers another take on fashion with French photographer Valérie Belin's exhibit "Made Up." Phillip Prodger, the museum's photography curator, has assembled 17 large photos of mannequins and models, as well as shots of flattened bags of chips and oversaturated color shots of fruity still lives, for a strange rumination on beauty, fashion, and consumption. The show prompts double takes when you pass three photos that seem to show the same cabaret performer wearing three different showgirl costumes but in the exact same pose. Other sets offer different views of the same mannequin, or the same woman with different hair and outfits. It's vertigo-inducing: you can't be sure what's real and what's artificial. Belin wants to zero in on the reality-versus-simulation and originality-versus-copy questions that define the self-referential maze of mirrors of postmodernist art. But after three decades, I've grown tired of this game.

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