‘Reflections of Elegance’ features Kenneth Paul Block’s original works
By: Terry Rader
Theatre Art Galleries in High Point is bringing back one of the most beloved fashion illustrators of all time in its upcoming “Reflections of Elegance: Kenneth Paul Block and the Masters of Fashion Illustration.” The opening reception is on Thursday, Jan. 31 with live music by the Keith Byrd Trio. The show runs through March 22 and is free and open to the public.
In a time when photography was the chosen medium in the fashion industry, Block’s illustrations kept abreast and, according to a TAG press release, “to a large degree began to influence the very designers’ work that he sketched.” He was known to stand out in his personal style and said that gesture, to him, was everything to fashion. He expressed it vividly with his paints and pencils in fluid works of chic art. Kenneth Paul Block remains a highly revered influencer to up-and-coming fashion illustrators as well as those who followed him throughout their careers. He worked as chief features artist for Fairchild Publications, owner of Women’s Wear Daily (a garment industry trade paper) for 40 years where he infused his style to transform and illustrate the works of famous designers such as Norman Norell, Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Perry Ellis, Andre Courreges, Pierre Cardin, Hubert de Givenchy, Alix Gres and Coco Chanel.
Executive director of Theatre Art Galleries Jeff Horney said that TAG is using all three of its main galleries for this exhibit. He said TAG really wanted to have room to allow this show to breathe, and that they are looking forward to having a great time with the installation and turn it into a cohesive exhibit next week.
The Kenneth Paul Block Foundation was set up by Kenneth’s nephew, Steve Block and his wife, Betty Morgan-Block, who now own the works. They are serving as guardians and educators of his Block’s work until they find a permanent home in which to preserve, exhibit, store and most importantly, continue to provide education. Morgan-Block is a former Elon College educator and will provide guided educational tours of this exhibit for groups including churches, garden clubs and others who call ahead to book guided group tours.
This show was exhibited at Alamance Arts last year and when Horney saw it, he knew it would be a great match for TAG’s mission. He said he had grown up in a family creative business designing advertising displays for retail environments using markers. He said he connects to Block’s illustrative style on a personal level, because “no one uses markers these days,” and he loved markers’ loose and expressive style.
Horney said that this exhibit will also showcase the fashion illustrations of Bil Donovan, Robert Richards, “Eric” (Carl Oscar August Erickson), Rene Boucher, and Erte (Romain de Tirtoff) who is also known as the “Father of Art Deco.”
Horney said the Erte and the Boucher pieces hung in Block’s bedroom for more than 60 years. He said the Foundation purchased Eric’s illustration when it found the magazine page from where the ad ran in Kenneth’s files after he died. The Foundation purchased the original because they knew how much Block had loved Eric’s work and how he had studied it so intently.
Horney said that Block used to work at McCalls where he sketched and marked dress patterns. TAG is offering a fee-based “Fashion Inspired Collage Workshop” utilizing old dress patterns on Saturday, Feb. 16 from 10 a.m. -2 p.m. (Go online to see a sample collage and to register.)
TAG’s fourth gallery, The Kaleidoscope Gallery, will concurrently exhibit “The Annual High School Exhibit.” This gallery changes over four times a year with middle school art in the spring, summer-long art camps, lower school art in the fall and high school art in the winter.
“What an impact this has on these kids to have one piece of art on exhibit and to be able to proudly pose for photos with their families,” Horney said. “A big part of what we do is rotating kids in schools including Ferndale Middle School and Pennybyrn, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater High Point, High Point Regional and Millis Education Center at Wake Forest Baptist High Point Medical.”
Horney said that so much art has been taken out of schools and many kids don’t get the opportunity to do this and they love it. Horney said TAG is always looking for new artists to exhibit and encourage those interested to apply online.
TERRY RADER is a freelance writer, poet and songwriter, formerly an ad agency creative director/branding strategist/copywriter and Earth Harmony columnist, a storyteller on a mission to raise awareness for creativity and environmental sustainability along with part-time work in Community Outreach & Wellness at Deep Roots Market Co-op and her business, Paws n’ Peace o’ Mind, Pet/House sitter/Day Visits/Special Needs & Senior Pets.
Jan. 31 from 5:30-7:30 p.m, “Reflections of Elegance” opening reception, runs through March 22. Theatre Art Galleries, 220 East Commerce St., High Point, 336.887.2137, Gallery hours: Tues. – Fri., noon-5 p.m. or by appointment, Office hours: Tues.-Fri., 8 a.m.-5 p.m, all exhibitions are free and open to the public. Call for artists: apply online.