The Man, The Myth, The Advertising Legend

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"Head Back, Lolita '61 (Sag Harbor)" by Bert Stern featuring actress Sue Lyons

Bert Stern may be an advertising legend, but rarely are his iconic images displayed for their artistic value alone.

Keyes Art Gallery is changing that.

Beginning Saturday, August 4, the East Hampton gallery will present “Shapes and Symbols,” the first comprehensive exhibition of Stern’s fashion and commercial work from 1953 to 1970 — many of which have never been publicly displayed outside the magazines of their time.

A self-taught photographer, Stern began his career as an assistant at Flair before, in 1946, meeting and befriending Stanley Kubrick at Look — for whom he would later shoot Sue Lyon as Lolita. But before that could happen, he served in the U.S. Army, ultimately returning to New York to work on campaigns at the inception of advertising’s Golden Age.

One of his first significant assignments was a shot in Egypt for Smirnoff Vodka in 1955, where Stern captured a martini glass placed on the sand before a looming pyramid — the top of which is seen inverted in the glass of martini — and has since been described as “the most influential break with traditional advertising photography.”

“Bert Stern is credited with having redefined advertising imagery in the early 1950s,” according to a press release. “Previously, advertising in magazines was used primarily to illustrate the text. Through his conceptual vision, Stern ushered in a new era of advertising, one where photographic images began to communicate much more elusive and seductive messages to consumers.”

Keyes Art Gallery is located at 53 The Circle in East Hampton, and the show will remain on view through September 8. For more information, call (917)-509-1379 or visit juliekeyesart.com.

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