First a painter, second a jewellery designer, third a fashion designer, and fourth a collage artist exploring the creative affordances of social media as a fashion expat. Doug Abraham, and his fashion label Bess famously occupied the space that was once Keith Haring’s Pop Shop in SoHo, where it put a high fashion face to punked up Victorian-era fashion. Still, as Bess’ retail shop draws to a close, Abraham has invented a new place to reside, a small pocket of the internet where art and fashion co-exist yet accommodate extravagant viewership.
Uncollaborative, his collage works are bastardizations meant to shake even their maker out of the monotony of a corporate fashion stupor. Abraham knows all too well the production value that goes into a fashion campaign, especially that of luxury brands. Additionally, he understands the creative limitations involved at that level. In a move of ingenuity, he has created a new job for himself using the by-products of a tired fashion industry by applying as minimal production requirements as a guerrilla party. Thus, the same public relation obstacles faced by high-end fashion houses no longer apply. In this sense, Abraham is a scavenger, a doctor Frankenstein of the fashion spread. His monster is a constantly reinvented splice of brand logos, fashion advertisements, horror films and general gore (relating back to the paintings he did as an MA at Hunter College), pornography and bondage, and images from the general storm of digitally available pop culture.
These images are meant for consumption; Abraham has done just that. He has chewed them up but spit them out before swallowing: the faces of Dior models juxtaposed with bloody and battered film stills, Barbies with Prada bags draining the blood of their decapitated Ken-doll victims. Men spreading their cheeks pre-penetration censored with a sliver of Versace runway. Surprisingly, he has faced very little backlash for his fashion campaign rewrites. In an interview with Interview magazine editorial director Fabien Baron, Baron was thrilled with what he had done with some of his images. They also laughed about the double standard of American censorship.
Specifically, how images of violence come through multiple mediums unscathed, yet Instagram community policy has made it its mission to shield eyes everywhere from female nipples. According to their nostalgia, the nineties had a lot more nipples in it and it was better for it. Thanks to the positive reaction of his fashion peers and his Insta fandom, Abraham has been allowed to let more than one nip slip. Oftentimes this is managed through the semi-abstraction of the close-up; a new trend in Abraham’s work is to stamp macro images of body parts, make-outs, and nature with brand logos. These gestures reflect on how fashion branding is very rarely about the garments, and more about a constructing a saleable mood. Incorporating the pre-existing grid structure supplied by the app, Abraham plays with monochrome groupings to create a secondary photomontage based on the latent artistic affordances of his chosen social media medium.
Text by JERA MACPHERSON