The first bit of physical fashion Iâ€™ve seen since emerging from my postpartum haze wasnâ€™t even on a human being.Â In fact, Iâ€™m not sure Iâ€™d even categorise it as fashion.Â Jonathan Anderson has taken me to some unexpected non-obvious venues.Â Places where art and design live and breathe and when his clothes are presented in those contexts, they feel believable.Â One time, it was the The Millinery Works, a wonderful arts and craft furniture dealer in London, for a Loewe dinner celebrating a collaboration with the textile artist John Allen.Â Another time, it was up to Cambridge for a J.W. Anderson resort presentation at Kettleâ€™s Yard, where former Tate curator Jim Edeâ€™s 20th century collection was a backdrop for the zany mix of metallic knee-high boots and polka dotty frills.Â With a very very kind offer to take Nico in tow with us, Steve and I journeyed up to Wakefield last weekend to the opening of Disobedient Bodies, an exhibition curated by Anderson at the Hepworth Gallery, the first of its kind as the gallery invites creatives from outside of the art world to come and present their perspective on the galleryâ€™s modern British art collection.
Andersonâ€™s starting point was that problematic quandary of â€œIs fashion art?â€�, a question that he admits was something that irked him.Â Then two years ago, invited by the Hepworth to come and curate its collection, and embarking on a collaborative process of selecting pieces to converse with one another, Anderson became a convert to the idea of fashion sitting alongside art, sculpture and design on an equal and almost indistinguishable footing.Â The result is Disobedient Bodies, gathering together over a hundred pieces by artists, sculptors, choreographers, furniture designers, fashion creators and even ceramicists, who have all looked at the body in a rebellious manner.Â In most instances, the body is absent, altered or abstracted in some way and together itâ€™s an extraordinary assembly of aesthetics.
Henry Mooreâ€™s wooden sculpture, the “Reclining Figureâ€� from 1936 marks the beginning of this fluid and unconventional exhibition, where a Madame GrÃ¨s pleated dress is draped haphazardly on an Eileen Gray Transat chair.Â Or where a Christian Dior haute couture dress from A/W 1952 with architectured jutting out and undulating hips stands like a totem next to Jean Arpâ€™s Sâ€™Ã©levant (Rising Up) sculpture or indeed, Barbara Hepworthâ€™s white marble Totem, both conceived in 1962.Â One of the central anchor pieces of the exhibition sees a Jean Paul Gaultier jersey dress pulled tautly over a specially made mannequin body where the conical breasts are exaggerated to mimic Mooreâ€™s curvaceous figure.
â€œCan Helmut Lang be seen as powerful as Louise Bourgeois or a Giacometti?â€� was another hypothetical question that Anderson posed and so Langâ€™s iconic harnesses and holsters hang behind the spindly Standing Woman by Alberto Giacometti.Â Aesthetic similarities are drawn in a deliberate bold fashion as the flat steel planes of Naum Gaboâ€™s Head No. 2 are paired with the felt brilliance of Rei Kawakuboâ€™s â€œ2Dâ€� A/W 12 Comme des GarÄ‡ons collection.Â The padded out fabric tubes of Kawakuboâ€™s â€œMonsterâ€� collection is seen on parity with Sarah Lucasâ€™ â€œBunnyâ€� works made out of stuffed flesh-coloured tights.
Anderson doesnâ€™t shy away from calling out his heroes and references in his own work.Â Kawakubo is one of course as is Issey Miyake, whose pleated garments hang next to the lamps of Isamu Noguchi.Â Other fashion design purists such as Yohji Yamamoto and Rick Owens also feature in the exhibition.Â Andersonâ€™s own work isnâ€™t necessarily the main focal point, but is present where it feels necessary and significant.Â For instance, a grouping of clear plastic Loewe garments stand next to the only bit of natural light in the exhibition, with Wakefieldâ€™s old factory buildings looming in the background.
Housing all of these conversations are curtain-esque partitions made out of surplus fabric from Andersonâ€™s studio, devised by 6a architects in London.Â Itâ€™s an intentional nod at domesticity as are the tables for displaying some of the pieces.Â You almost trip over the gingham â€˜lumps and bumpsâ€™ of the infamous Comme des Garcons S/S 97 â€˜Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Bodyâ€™ collection as they lay on the floor like casually placed boulders.Â The tangibility is something that Anderson wanted to convey even if it isnâ€™t quite possible to maul our hands over the art works on display.Â Hence why the central room of the exhibition has been filled with an installation of twenty eight floor-to-ceiling elongated jumpers, drawing from Andersonâ€™s love of knitwear.Â Here you can twist and interact with yarn, forming your own tactile ties.Â Much like the local kids of three schools in Wakefield, who were photographed wearing the exhibitionâ€™s fashion pieces by Andersonâ€™s longtime collaborator Jamie Hawkesworth.
That acknowledgement of the Hepworthâ€™s out-of-London location was one of the primary reasons why Anderson was drawn to the project.Â â€œLondon is an island,â€� said Anderson at the dinner feting the exhibition on Friday night, â€œWe don’t end up sharing or seeing outside of our bubbles.â€�Â Thatâ€™s of course a valid sentiment cited as one of the primary driving forcesÂ behind people voting forÂ Brexit.Â By placing Disobedient Bodies at the Hepworth, Anderson is keen on empathising with this sentiment, byÂ wanting to shareÂ creativity across the whole country, and not just within the M25.Â Itâ€™s an attitude that makes sense coming from the Northern Irish Anderson, who once told me he never really identified himself as a â€œLondonâ€� designer.
It seems appropriate that for my first work outing, after my own personal life-change, that the fashion that I did see was placed in a context that makes you really think about its true value.Â Can fashion matter or make a difference?Â Is it worthy of a similar stature of say, the work of Louise Bourgeois or of course, Barbara Hepworth?Â Can it comment on our times and the significant world beyond the hyper-glam and privileged surfaces that whirs past us during fashion month?Â Why yes is the answer which is why when the time comes Iâ€™ll gingerly attempt to enthuse Nico about it all.Â Even if she doth protests.
SOURCE: Style Bubble – Read entire story here.