Deluxe Monograph “Hollywood Royale” Secures Matthew Rolston’s Place in the Pantheon of Los Angeles Image Makers
There have been several lush coffee-table books showcasing Matthew Rolston’s iconic portraiture, notably beautyLIGHT and Big Pictures, but his latest monograph takes the important next step of contextualizing him from an art-historical perspective. Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles examines Rolston’s contribution to the standard-setting era of 1980s magazine photography, a period that also saw the emergence of legendary image makers Greg Gorman, Annie Leibovitz, Steven Meisel, Herb Ritts, and Bruce Weber.
Hollywood Royale, to be published October 15 by teNeues of Germany, is a 270-page volume presenting a retrospective of Rolston’s work, with a particular focus on the heady days of the 1980s, when Madonna, George Michael, Michael Jackson, Prince, and other indelible pop stars, models, and celebrities ruled popular culture and blazed new trails in gender presentation and personal style. Rolston photographed them all, producing classic portraits that set the bar for generations to come.
The book also explores Rolston’s origin story, including his being “discovered” by Andy Warhol, who selected him to shoot portraits for Interview magazine in the late 1970s. Rolston flourished during those early Interview years, channeling his longtime passion for the idealized photography of MGM portrait studio master George Hurrell and putting his own spin on a glamorous style of photography that harked back to the golden age of Hollywood. In her essay for Hollywood Royale, Pat Hackett, Warhol’s collaborator and editor of The Andy Warhol Diaries, singles out Rolston’s portrait of Martha Davis, frontwoman for the New Wave band the Motels, as Rolston’s “first real Hollywood glamour portrait.”
“Upon delivering his prints to Interview, Rolston explained that Davis’ song lyrics about unhappiness and romantic betrayal had inspired him to recreate the scene from Sunset Boulevard where Gloria Swanson/Norma Desmond, having attempted suicide in a bid for sympathy from William Holden, is lying in bed with bandages on her wrists,” writes Hackett. Hollywood glamor has been one of Matthew’s signatures ever since.
Ultimately, though, Hollywood Royale is as much a history of Hollywood glamor as it is a compendium of Rolston’s work. The unforgettable style of Hollywood’s golden age in the Thirties and Forties had, by the early Seventies, become debased, only to be revived late in that decade and into the Eighties by Warhol, Helmut Newton, and Hurrell himself, who each put his own unmistakable stamp on the photographic art of seduction. Hollywood Royale looks at how that revival influenced the next generation of photographers, Rolston among them.
“There were always two sides to the Andy coin: Heads, he loved things that were really Real; Tails, things that were really Fake. ‘Glamour’ is completely fake. It’s the promise of everything you can never really have because it doesn’t really exist. But a glamorous photograph or film can make you believe that it does,” writes longtime Warhol collaborator Pat Hackett in her essay for Hollywood Royale.
Hollywood Royale features more than 100 photographs and was edited by Los Angeles gallerist David Fahey. The images span a host of photographic techniques, from classic 8×10 camera portraits to more stylized experiments in cross-processing, multiple exposure, and high-contrast color. The book also includes essays by Colin Westerbeck, noted photographic curator and expert on American photographer Irving Penn; and Charles Churchward, longtime creative director of both Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines and author of The Golden Hour, a definitive biography of photographer Herb Ritts.
Hollywood Royale will make its European debut on October 21 via an exhibition at Camera Work Galerie in Berlin, where it will be on view through December 2. The show will then travel to the U.S., where it will be on display at Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles from March 2 to April 21.
To learn more about Hollywood Royale, please visit hollywoodroyale.com.