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Tabloid Tinseltown

In the Gallery

The great and oily Weegee has the camera turned on him with a terrifically tawdry (and often oddly sweet) new MOCA exhibition.

You have to hand it to Jeffrey Deitch: MOCA’s director sure knows how to draw a crowd.

The latest peep show to lure them in is “Naked Hollywood: Weegee in Los Angeles,” which runs through Feb. 27, 2012, at MOCA Grand Avenue.

While Weegee was best known for his cops and corpses shots, mostly taken in New York City, when he moved to Los Angeles in 1953, the faded gimcrack and noir lighting of Hollywood grabbed his attentions, from the fallen starlets to the has-beens to the fans that love them. “Naked Hollywood,” his book chronicling the best of the worst, became something of a cult hit.

Those and other images, including rare ones of the W.C. Fields-looking shutterbug man, fill the gallery walls, following Weegee’s gumshoes through strip clubs and costume shops. His inky tabloid frames are often copied, never replicated (the closest to come to him has been the awesome Larry Fink).

Weegee was giddy about the cache of freaks everywhere around him in the “City of Angles.” “Now I could really photograph the subjects I liked,” he said. “I was free.”

“Weegee noticed things that other photographers ignored or dismissed,” says the show’s curator Richard Meyer. “At Hollywood premieres, he focused not only on the arrival of the movie stars, but on the faces of fans in the crowd as well as on the signs for pawn shops and funeral parlors near where they stood.  By capturing perspectives otherwise dismissed as insignificant, Weegee teaches us how to look at Hollywood, and at photography, in a different light.”

Deitch says of the show: “The unveiling of so many of Weegee’s Los Angeles photographs makes this is an historic exhibition. “Weegee leads us by his lens down red carpets and Los Angeles.”

His work shows that no matter how much changes, things remain quite the same. Imagine what he’d have done with the Kardashians and Lohans of the current scene. We shutter to think.

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