Couture Hoodies

 

Ink Drawings, I modified some of Nancy G’s (http://www.purpleoranges.ca) urban photography as background. The idea is that a hoodie is the perfect garnment for circulation in an urban setting as it insures anonymity. It’s a couture interpretation of the every-day hoodie. Can you tell the last one is inspire by Chanel?

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Art + Fashion: Viktor And Rolf Spring 2010.

Rihanna, Katie Perry and a few other adventurous celebrities were catapulted to the top of innumerable “worst dressed” lists and criticized by thousands of fashionista bloggers after they wore creations from Viktor and Rolf’s Spring 2010 Collection. And while I can’t disagree with some of the criticism (really, who could concentrate on Katie’s MTV Europe awards performance when wondering why her dress looked like a chunk of swiss cheese?), I thought the entire collection was kind of fantastic.

 I deeply admire Victor and Rolf’s creativity and absolutely LOVE the fact that they sent these ludicrous creations down the runway. There are many reasons why I believe that these creations have crossed the fine line between fashion and art, and have their  place in a museum or gallery next to contemporary artist’s works. And I’m not talking about them belonging in one of those fashion exhibits, but real hard-core conceptual art that makes the commoners yell “WHAT the FUCK is that???”.

One can’t disassociate the art production from the social context. When asked about the Swiss Emmental dress (sorry I can’t help myself) the designers stated that “With the credit crunch and everybody cutting back, we decided to cut tulle ball gowns,” (style.com). I thought it was clever of them to comment on people’s “cutting back”. Because let’s face it, if people are going to be cutting back on something, it’s going to be luxuries like couture fashion. I love a hint of Irony.

My claim that these creations are art is based on more than just this astute commentary about the current social and economical climate and consumer attitude. I simply love an artist that challenges the very nature of a medium, and that’s what happened here. One usually associates spring/summer collections with soft, feminine silhouettes and fluid materials. And while part of the collection embodies these ideals, the most noticeable pieces were the ones that completely ruptured with these expectations. The models came stomping down the runway wearing what appeared to be solid masses made out of net-tulle ruffles. This unconventional use of the material gave us a taste of the unusual and completely challenges our expectations of what fabrics should look like when they are worn.



I believe Viktor and Rolf were able to create pieces that challenged one’s perception of the space that clothes are supposed to create around the body. We expect clothes to unite with the body, compliment it, move with it and create a unified space around it. Here, the masses refuse to surrender to the body’s shape or movements, conflicting with it in every way.

The designers pushed the envelope even further with they’re “credit crunch” dresses. Clothes have been naturalized by society as being part or a continuation of the human body and that’s why these dresses create such an unsettling optical illusion, they seem unnatural.

In my esteem, these pieces are artworks because they explore alternate possibilities that a traditional medium can offer as well as challenging the viewer’s expectations of what clothes should do around the human body. And they did so all while being part of an absolutely breathtaking fashion show.

Before I end this post I would like to point out that the color palette in this collection is beautiful and that it’s time to remember how flattering pastels can be! I would wear some of the lingerie inspired pieces in a heartbeat! But I’ll let you discover those by watching the entire show on the Viktor and Rolf website….

Cirque

Fashion Sketches Inspired by the Cirque du Soleil. Drawings are colored ink, backgrounds are photoshoped images from the cirque “goodies”

Is Fashion Art?

 

Imagine someone buying a blouse because it “makes them think”, and then imagine someone appreciating a piece of art because it makes they’re hips look slimmer… ok those are silly examples. Still though, I don’t want my blouse to be intelectually stimulating, I just want girls to be jealous and boys to check me out. And I won’t buy an artwork because it brings out the color of my eyes, I just want to appreciate it because I don’t just see it, I’m looking at it and it’s stirring some kind of reaction in me that’s more than “Omg, I love it! I need to have this like now!”.

 The difference between good art and good fashion comes down to more than consumer attitude. Very different criteria is used to evaluate the worth of one and the other.

As someone who has studied Art History and Art Theory, I have learned to be cautious with the term “Art”. The term is too vague and too often redefined to be thrown around casually. I usually argue that Fashion is not Art, to the great dismay of my fashion-loving friends, colleagues and classmates. The reasons are simple enough. Fashion exists within a completely different market as Art and responds to a consumer demand. Art is progressive and challenges norms, whereas fashion usually caters to society and is (sadly) rather regressive in its tendency to imitate and recycle past movements.

“Great Artworks” usually posses qualities that make them transcend time, whereas Fashion has a life span of about six months. Of course, there are the occasional iconic fashion creations that survive the test of time, and become part of society’s cultural baggage. However, these icons remain creations that were meant for immediate use and consumption. A socialist Art History defines the Artwork as a cultural productions that exists within an economical structure. Art is also meant for consumption and artists could not have survived without wealthy patrons ready to financially support them and an institutional structure to protect them. Nevertheless, modern artists and art movements have revolutionized the purpose of artistic creation and have redefined it as something more than aesthetically pleasing. Contemporary artists have further pushed the envelope and Art’s value is now determined by its conceptual rather than aesthetic qualities.

I would describe a successful fashion designer as a great creative mind, a skillful craftsmen and a cultural practitioner with an acute cultural and aesthetic sensibility. Insofar as the criteria for “good art” that modern and contemporary art movements and art theory  have established in the past 100 years are considered, I wouldn’t describe the successful fashion designer as a “great artist”.  A simple way of putting things is that Art today has to be “food for thought”, a quality that fashion creations seldom possess. 

That is not to say that some designers haven’t transgressed the boundaries between Fashion and Art, and I will be posting about these exceptions and explaining why in my opinion, certain fashion creations have made “the cut” (no pun intended) and can be considered artworks. My point here is not to categorically declare that “Fashion is Not Art”, but simply to denounce the statement that “Fashion is Art” as too general and not justifiable by a few exceptions that exist in teh broadness of the fashion industry.

Otto Dix’s Art: Real Shock Value

On Otto Dix’s “New Objectivity”.

Most interesting Art movements are born in troubled times when society has been severely affected by significant events and changes. I wonder if my lack of enthusiasm for contemporary Art movements is due to the fact that there seems to have been no event violent enough to shake an artistic community to produce anything I find as interesting as post WWI modern artist’s works.

I’ve loved Otto Dix’s works from the moment I discovered him when studying Art History during my Lycée years. I was so happy when I was able to use him as a subject of study in one of my University essays, for a Modern Art and Theory class.

Perhaps contemporary artists lack the raw honesty that Dix possessed, too often hiding behind a mask of intellectual concepts that no one except people trained in intellectual snobbery will understand. Dix’s works possess pure shock value that transcends time. I took clippings of my university essay I hope will show why I think Otto Dix is such a great artist.

Even though Otto Dix’s works share many themes and aesthetic traits with his contemporaries, he was unique in his artistic productions. Otto Dix (1981-1969) enrolled in the German army and fought from 1915 to 1917. After fighting for Germany in War World I, many young men were left physically maimed and shell-shocked from the horrors they had witnessed. Otto Dix (1981-1969), rather than join in the Dada’s movement of chaotic expressions of post-war trauma, chose to create images that would impose on his viewer a direct confrontation with the horrors of war and modern society.

 

Center Panel from The War Tryptich

 

The Triptych The War 1921 (later destroyed by the Nazis) perfectly exemplifies Dix’s twisted style. The imagery is one of an allegory gone wrong, the central panel of 104x104cm, is a solemn image composed of elements of putrescence and decay as debris mix with wounded flesh. An ominous corpse is suspended over the scenes of horror, ceremoniously pointing down to the earth, mocking the traditional glorious war personifications that usually brandish flags in triumph in the midst of a battle. He uses one of the most traditionally revered art genres, the Historical Painting, as a grotesque and impartial representation of horror of ugliness.

What fascinates me most in Dix’s paintings is his treatment of the human body. He depicts it as disposable, as his subjects are often cripples with distorted, detached limbs or artificial ones. One of his most famous paintings, The Skat Players, 1920, oil on canvas and collage, is even more grotesque, as the limbs of the war veterans are artificial distorted, or subtracted so that they either reassemble wounds, machines or useless stumps. The war cripples are cruelly parodied as one holds his cards with his mouth, and the other with his artificial leg.

In Street of Prague, 101x81cm oil on canvas and collage he produced in 1920 (figure 1)A distorted female mannequin model in what appears to be braces and a crutch in an unsettling sexual pose. The dismembered mannequin in a store window denounces the fact that in the horrors of war the human body to a point where body parts are for sale.

Dix often depicted the women’s body as being a marketable object in modern society. In his triptych The Big City 1928, mixed technique on wood 181×402, the woman as object of desire and a product to be consumed is more obvious. (sorry, I wasn’t abble to find an image of this painting, and I no longer have home access to Art Stor through the MgGill Art Stor!) In the central panel, people dance to a Charleston band while enjoying luxuries that are shown off by the central female character. The right panel shows high end prostitutes, cheaply imitating high-class looks and disdainfully passing by a war-cripple while the left panel shows the most available prostitutes and two war veterans, one crippled and the other one possibly homeless as he is lying down underneath a bridge. This work shows the body as reduced to a display of flesh, the war veterans bearing signs of physical decay and the women as being objects of luxuries or cheap pleasure, unavailable in even its cheapest forms to the invalids.

Otto Dix observed and painted society with an indifference that suggested that such horrific scenes were mundane and part of everyday scenery. I believe that Dix’s works still have a strong impact today because he represents horrors with a nihilistic humor and paints with a cold, cruel savagery. His raw honesty gives his works real shock-value that transcends time and place and provokes the same human emotion in any viewer. This kind of raw objectivity is a universally understood language, that doesn’t require any pretence to some higher knowledge of Art to be understood. 

Sources:
Eva Karcher, Otto Dix, 1891-1969, Sa vie, son oeuvre, ed. Benedikt Taschen, 1989.
Hal Foster, et al., Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernis,, Postmodernism vol.1, 1900-1944, 135-141.
Hartley, K., Otto Dix, exhib. cat. 1991 (London, Tate http://www.groveart.com/shared/views/article.html?from=search&session_search_id=513003793&hitnum=2&section=art.991297