Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fashioning the Object at the Art Institute of Chicago

In No Time Collection 2007, Hand-knitted Dress by Sandra Backlund, Image courtesy of the AIC

Fashioning the Object at the Art Institute of Chicago is an exhibition celebrating the innovative work of Bless, Boudicca, and Sandra Backlund. The practices of this group redefine fashion design into a conceptually based interdisciplinary process that sits on the intersection of art and fashion. Not driven by market forces, the work on display is intellectually engaging and exciting. 

The exhibition curator writes:  "Bless, Boudicca, and Backlund view fashion as a critical forum for dialogue and exchange, as well as an armature for understanding our place in the world. However, they endeavor to move beyond previous practices by drawing on an even greater spectrum of ideas inspired by disciplines as diverse as fine art, performance, design, and architecture to create work that responds to the social, political, and cultural environment and explores the creative process."

The exhibition is divided into three spaces which immerse the visitor into the work of the three designer groups. The first gallery features the work of Bless designers Desiree Heiss, who is based in Paris, and Ines Kaag of Berlin, who correspond daily through e-mail and Skype chats. The premise of their work is on the practice of altering or adding to existing objects to create new narratives, such as a hairbrush made of human hair - "like a jewelry case for hair".  The tactile qualities of this work invite touching and this is one of the few occasions when visitors are encouraged to do so. 

Bless Hair Brush, Image courtesy of the AIC

The second gallery is the largest and showcases the work of Boudicca founders Zowie Broach and Brian Kirkby. The video installations have a haunting narrative and highlight the “investigative rather than simply decorative” nature of the designers work. The video for their "Tornado Dress" can be viewed on YouTube here

The last gallery features the work of Sandra Backlund who creates ethereal knitwear to “consciously dress and undress parts of the body” in an effort to “highlight, distort, and transform the natural silhouette with clothes and accessories.” Delicate and armour-like at the same time, these garments transform the feminine shape into an artwork.

Pool Position by Sandra Backlund, Image courtesy of the AIC
I was enchanted and inspired by this exhibition of fashion as art. Intelligent, thoughtful and innovative are the words that come to mind. The exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago runs until September 13, 2012. For more information, visit the AIC website here.

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