New York City | USA
Until 4 April 2015
36 x 16in / 91 x 41cm
The words SOLD OUT shout proudly from beneath a picture of a cute silver robot ring on the Gagosian’s on-line shopping page. The rings are from an edition made in 2010 by sculptor and jewellery designer, Mia Fonssagrives-Solow. If you’re interested in seeing something more substantial, over twenty of her bronze and aluminium sculptures of robots, fembots and aliens that she created over the last seven years, are being exhibited for the first time in Mia Fonssagrives-Solow: Robots at New York’s Kasher Potamkin gallery.
Should the surname Fonssagrives sound familiar – born Lisa Bernstone in 1911, Mia’s mother was a Swede, who studied painting, sculpture and dancing in Berlin, before moving to Paris, where she met and married Fernand Fonssagrives and became a model. Before the couple moved to the United States in 1939, she had already achieved international modelling stardom and was recognisable from the covers of magazines such as Town & Country, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. Working with fashion photographers including George Hoyningen-Huene, Man Ray, Horst, Erwin Blumenfeld and Richard Avedon, it was reported that she was the ‘highest paid, highest praised, high fashion model in the business.’ Meanwhile, Fernand became a fashion photographer himself, whose career also took off to the point where he was, reportedly, the highest paid photographer in New York. But, sadly, by 1950 things had gone awry between the golden couple and they divorced. Shortly after Lisa married another very famous photographer, Irving Penn. ‘She was the inspiration and subject of some of Penn’s greatest photographs,’ said Alexander Liberman, editorial director of Condé Nast , which publishes Vogue. In later life, Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn would become a fashion designer and also a sculptor, producing unremarkable, semi- abstract, figurative work in marble, bronze and fibreglass, and represented by the Marlborough Gallery in New York.
Growing up on the farm the family bought at Huntington on Long Island, Mia was nevertheless constantly immersed in her parents’ world of fashion and art. She says that Penn proved irresistible. Ultimately, she considered him to be her second father. But as she grew and was sent to a progressive, mixed-sex senior school in the city, she struggled, caused trouble, and after being banned from one class, ended up doing woodwork instead. The processes of working with wood, the odours of the freshly cut raw material, the glues, and the resinous finishes, all left a strong impression on her that would influence her future creativity. After attending New York’s famous design school, Parsons, Mia and a friend decided to move to Paris to create a fashion collection together. Things were going remarkably well, but after a time Mia had become restless. However, a timely stroke of luck got them a contract to design clothes for a new Woody Allen film, What’s New Pussycat? (1965) that was filmed in Paris, and they went on to great success designing for Hollywood stars and other films, including the James Bond classic, Thunderball. Ten years later, Mia gave it all up to refine her woodworking skills, afterwards becoming a sculptor and jewellery-maker. She was later to marry self made New York property developer Sheldon Solow, who, according to Forbes magazine has a current net worth of $3.6 billion.
Her sculptures have graced Asprey and the windows of Cartier and Bergdorf Goodman, but not everyone would refer to Mia Fonssagrives-Solow’s robots – ranging in height from young child size to small adult – as high art. However, in an art world dominated by ’serious’ work that a lot is written about and sells for ever-increasing amounts of ’serious’ money, sculpture that is capable of putting a smile on the otherwise mean-mouthed face of a ’serious’ critic is not too bad a thing.
All photos courtesy Kasher Potamkin
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