Friday, September 12

On Display: Return of the Rudeboy at Somerset House

I visited Return of the Rudeboy at Somerset House in it's final days (late August), which  was right in the middle of Summer Screen (which once again I didn't get to book for).

Return of the Rudeboy was primarily a photographic exhibition, supplemented with music, objects and other visuals in an attempt to create an immersive experience. The exhibition was curated by British Photographer Dean Chalkley and Fashion Director and Stylist Harris Elliott.

The exhibition started by looking at the roots of Rudeboy Style, beginning in Kingston, Jamaica in the 1950's; the style which usually consisted of sharp suits, skinny ties and pork pie hats - was heavily influenced by the music of that time. The course of the exhibition showed how the style of the Rudeboy evolved through time - into the 1980's with the Two-Tone Ska revival, through to the present day with the prevalence of street style blogs like Street Etiquette.

Throughout the six rooms, the exhibition aimed to portray the social, cultural and historical themes of the 'Rudeboy Lifestyle'. As well as presenting life-size hand-printed images of individuals embodying the Rudeboy aesthetic - the exhibition also included set pieces such as speakers, styled mannequins, grooming tools and a pop-up barbershop.

I was so excited about going to see this exhibition; I love the juxtaposition of seeing contemporary exhibitions in a neo-classical building like Somerset House, but I sometimes struggle a little bit with the layout of exhibitions in the Terrace Rooms. The traditional set-up of walking from room-to-room can become so monotonous that regardless of how exciting an exhibition is you can very quickly lose interest in looking at pictures and objects.Which is pretty much how I felt by the end of the exhibition, although it featured really strong images and I was engaged through the first couple of rooms, I felt it lacked the historical interpretation and context to keep me engaged.

I was intrigued by the exhibition not only based on my interest in menswear, and blogs like Street Ettiquette, but also because the history of Rudeboy is my history. My knowledge of Rudeboy is photos of my grandparents and great-aunts and uncles in Jamaica (and when they first came to the UK); then the music that my mum and dad listened to and played, respectively. For me 'Rudeboy' is not just a cool passing trend that The Sartorialist can capture for a season. I just hope that people left the exhibition feeling inspired to discover a little bit more.

You can find out more about the exhibition by visiting the Official Site or by searching #RudeboysReturn


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